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A Fiery End to a Sunny Weekend

Firefighters' Quick Action Lauded

A fire that was apparently deliberately set briefly surged out of control Sunday afternoon near the rail tracks just south of the Village. Lions Bay Fire Rescue (LBFR) was on scene within minutes as smoke billowed into the sky on the warm, breezy day.


The Lower Mainland has experienced an uncharacteristically dry May with only 16.1 mm recorded in a month that usually averages 50-100 mm, and not a drop of rain has fallen thus far in June, making conditions unfortunately ideal for a wildfire. At the height of the fire, the smoke plume was visible from across Howe Sound and around the village.


Speaking to The Watershed, Fire Chief Barret Germscheid said his crew was notified of a wildland fire just before 5 p.m., called in by a boater on the Sound. His team immediately set up operations on Tidewater Way, and followed the tracks to the fire. LBFR’s jurisdiction is within village boundaries, but their response area extends beyond the borders of Lions Bay to encompass rescues on the highway and fire events such as this one.


While his team got to work containing the blaze, Germscheid contacted provincially-mandated Coastal Fire for resources and support. By the time the Coastal Fire team leader arrived and the rest of his team were helicoptered in from the fire they'd been fighting in Squamish, the LBFR team had the fire knocked down and contained.


Meanwhile, Emergency Support Services (ESS) Director Mary Brown contacted the provincially-mandated Emergency Management and Climate Readiness (EMCR) group, which provides funding to help cover some of the peripheral costs associated with the fire response.


View from across the Sound, from Mountain Drive, and LBFR attending the scene on Tidewater Avenue

photos by Natasha Little, Gail Craig and kc dyer


Cause of Fire Being Investigated


Back in Kelvin Grove, a group of youths making a hasty exit from the scene spoke to a Mountain Drive resident who happened to be driving past. The resident, who asked that his name not be used, was furious.


"I talked to some kids who were leaving the scene, and they said someone had set a fire, just above where they were cliff jumping."

The cliffs below the railroad tracks just south of Lions Bay have been the site of this popular, if dangerous, pastime for decades. The location, including the required trip along the railway line, is in-demand enough to rate a page online HERE.


When asked about the cause of the fire, Germscheid said there was no evidence of a campfire ring, nor a stack of firewood. "It's 99 percent sure this fire was human-caused, but as to who or why, it's really tough to tell. The wind was swirling and that can really change the path of a fire."


Germscheid added a provincial resource officer was investigating the cause of the fire. Also lending a hand was the Coast Guard, who noticed the smoke plume from their vessel in Horseshoe Bay and offered the use of their water pump. Over the course of the event, the Fire Chief was also in touch with CN Rail, who halted train traffic along the rail corridor until the all-clear was given. Coastal Fire remained onsite overnight, until it was determined that no hot-spots remained.


By 7 p.m., this shot (left) taken from a whale-watching vessel showed the firefighters had controlled the blaze, which had noticeably diminished in size. About that time, Brown posted an update onto the Lions Bay Neighbours page of Facebook noting that the Coastal Fire officials were confident that no evacuations would be required.



"An event like this shows the importance of a service like Alertable", said Brown. "This service was approved back in March. Both Emergency Coordinator Phil Folkersen and I have taken the training, but we can't implement it until the Mayor and the Fire Chief are also trained."


Speaking after closing down the ESS desk at the Village Hall, she added that Council has yet to fund the credit cards for emergency purposes that were approved back in April. She is anxious for Council to make good on its promises with both the implementation of the Alertable program, and this emergency funding.


Brown said that before the confirmation that no evacuations would be necessary, Folkersen and Mayor Ken Berry went house-to-house on Tidewater to alert residents to a possible evacuation order. "A system like Alertable makes that kind of thing unnecessary, and gets the word out much faster," she added.

All parties agreed that the quick action on the part of ESS and the various fire services was pivotal to the successful outcome yesterday. But residents are asking what plans can be put in place to protect a village on a wooded mountainside, as summer approaches and the trails and surrounding areas become even more tinder dry.


What Can Residents Do To Help?

"This fire should be a huge wake-up call, not only to Council but to the entire community,” said Brown. “People need to be prepared for sudden evacuations. You need a home plan. You need grab and go bags and sufficient water on hand for every member of the family." She added that Emergency Preparedness Week was just last month, and more details to help families be better prepared can be found at the province's public emergency preparations site, HERE.


"I'd say the biggest takeaway for Lions Bay residents is to Fire Smart your home," said Germscheid. "Obviously, we all live in the woods, and can't put all the recommendations in place. But homeowners need to take a look at the Fire Smart site."


"Even implementing one or two of the recommendations will help. Proper yard maintenance, or sowing fire-resistant plants in your garden. Even a simple thing like putting your patio cushions away after use can make the difference as to whether a spark catches your deck on fire or not."


Follow The Watershed as we take a closer look at fire, earthquake and emergency preparedness plans over the summer. Got concerns about wildfires? The Watershed values your opinion. Post your comments below, or email editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca



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Thank you Barret, each and every Lions Bay fire fighter, Mary, Phil, Coastal Fire, the Coast Guard from Horseshoe Bay, and Natasha who may have been the boater who called in the fire from a boat on Howe Sound. You have no idea how grateful we are!


Thank you Karen for gathering all the details for us.


With the astronomical influx of hikers, plus thrill seekers and beach goers arriving in Lions Bay every single weekend, and week days now also, it is paramount that Council reviews all the plans and requirements for keeping the Village, the forests, our watershed and all the residents safe.


It is interesting to see the clear directions and parking shown in the link for…

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Unknown member
Jun 06, 2023

Watch the excellent video posted in the special Mayor’s update email thanking the firefighters!

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