Controlled burn on Halloween sends strong smoke smell across Greater Victoria
File photo: Wildfire smoke obscures the sunrise over the Southern Gulf Islands. Aug. 1, 2017. (CTV Vancouver Island)
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Wednesday, October 31, 2018 3:54PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 31, 2018 6:52PM PDT
A controlled burn sent a strong smell of smoke over Greater Victoria on Halloween night, drawing sharp criticism from parents of trick-or-treaters online.
Langford fire said the Wednesday afternoon smoke came from a "significant" number of controlled burns in the Sooke, Otter Point and Port Renfrew areas conducted by TimberWest.
B.C.'s Air Quality Health Index website showed the West Shore briefly spiked to a rating of 7, meaning the air quality carried a high health risk, likely due to the high concentration of smoke particles in the air. The rating dropped back down to 3, or low health risk, just after 5 p.m.
Saanich fire also weighed in on the smoke, saying the smoke index was high in that city despite no active fires in the area.
The burning smell was distinct in downtown Victoria while others reported smelling it on the West Shore and on the Saanich Peninsula. Some people said they could even smell smoke inside their office buildings and apartments in Langford and at the University of Victoria.
Langford fire said the smoke would likely persist throughout Halloween night.
TimberWest responded to CTV's requests for comment early Wednesday evening, saying it has heard the complaints about the smoke and is investigating.
"We take precautions to ensure that appropriate conditions are in place for prescribed burning in accordance to venting regulations," a company spokesperson said in a statement.
The smoke came as something of a surprise to parents gearing up for a night of trick-or-treating with their kids.
Great timing for Halloween, kids with asthma and other health issues will thank timber west, I’m sure. I can smell it in Victoria.— Kim (@KimbaSeas) October 31, 2018
Fire officials are reminding the public not to call 911 just because they smell smoke.
"Please only call 911 if you see a distinct column of smoke or see flames," Langford Fire said in a tweet.