Homeless camp sparks fire in Maple Ridge
Tinder dry brush caught fire and spread quickly at a homeless camp in east Maple Ridge on Friday.
The fire was doused by firefighters before it reached homes, but put crews on edge for more than an hour.
The fire started just before 4 p.m. on an undeveloped property along 112th Avenue at 240th Street, where two homeless men were camping.
Shawn, 16, was biking nearby when he saw a plume of black smoke rising out of a thicket of trees. Then he heard the sirens of fire trucks.
“There’s two guys living in the bush,” said Shawn, adding they had been camping in the area for the past two weeks.
All three fire halls in Maple Ridge were paged to battle the fire and the Coastal Fire Centre’s helicopter was put on standby.
Fire chief Peter Grootendorst said the extra resources were not needed.
"It's unusually dry out there at this time of the year," said Grootendorst.
“We still have a high fire danger rating. So just a caution to the public, if you are having any outdoor fires or campfires, be extremely cautious.”
Grootendorst believes the fire is linked to the homeless camp. RCMP were called on Thursday night and told the men to put out a cooking fire.
The dry, warm weather means a ban on backyard burning in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge that’s usually lifted by October, has been extended until the area receives a large amount of rain.
Vancouver has recorded the driest September in 116 years, according to Environment Canada.
The monthly total of 7.9 millimetres of rain is the driest since records started being kept in 1896. The previous record was set in 1907 at 9.4 millimetres of precipitation.
Several other cities in B.C. also broke records.
Agassiz, Abbotsford and Victoria all broke records set in 1974, while Nanaimo broke a record set in 1998.
- with files from Environment Canada
Two ways out
“Have Two Ways Out” is this year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13.
The theme borrows from rabbits who always have at least two exits out of their underground burrows.
President of the Canadian Association of fire chiefs Stephen Gamble says families who create and practise an escape plan together, with two ways out of every room, if possible, have a better chance of escaping during a real fire emergency.
• Families can print out a free home escape plan template by visiting www.safeathome.ca/twowaysout.
• In Maple Ridge, the fire prevention week open house takes place at Fire Hall 1, on Dewdney Trunk Road at 227th Street, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.
Elementary school student from kindergarten to Grade 3 can also apply to be a “fire chief for a day”. The contest closes Oct. 22.
• In Pitt Meadows, visit the fire hall at 19240 – 122 A Avenue on Saturday, Oct. 13 from noon to 3 p.m. The open house will feature display by Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, RCMP, Canadian Pacific Rail Police as well as free refreshments and face painting.