Firefighters fill pails of water to carry to the site of a fire off Harris Road which was sparked by a homeless camp Friday morning.

Homeless camp sparks fire in Pitt

Firefighters rush to put out blaze that ignited peat moss and tree trunks

A homeless camp sparked a fire Friday morning that spread through a thickly wooded area in Pitt Meadows.

The fire started around 7:30 a.m. off a trail that leads from Harris Road to Baynes Road, just below the Mitchell Road subdivision.

Staff at Pitt Meadows airport spotted smoke and called in the fire.

Firefighters had to cut through dense brush to reach the blaze.

Fire chief Don Jolley said the fire was at least 300 feet into difficult-to-access brush.

Crews had to carry water in backpacks to the site because hoses were not long enough to reach it.

Two tents were found in the thicket but no one was inside them.

Jolley does not know how the fire started but suspects it had something to do with cooking at the campsite.

“They were certainly cooking in the area of the fire recently,” he added.

A helicopter flew in a forest fire fighting crew from Metro Vancouver who helped douse the flames which rapidly engulfed tinder dry debris and ignited peat moss.

It took 15 firefighters and a three person forest fire crew to extinguish the fire. The B.C. Ambulance Service was put on standby for the crews’ safety.

Jolley said the fire moved slowly but got into the roots and trucks of numerous trees near the homeless camp.

Although the fire did not pose a threat to homes or property, crews had to make sure it was extinguished completely to stop smouldering debris from reigniting as the day heated up.

It was very difficult to extinguish as it was also below ground into the peat and roots, Jolley added.

“We ended up falling a half dozen trees and clearing a fairly large area of brush, of approximately 50 feet.”

The Maple Ridge fire department also sent a crew to help Pitt Meadows.

It took more than four hours to completely extinguish the fire.

 

• A previous version of the story incorrectly stated the fire was located near Hoffman Park.

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