Island wildfire caused by lightning encroaches on Laketown Ranch
A firefighting helicopter is pictured near Lake Cowichan: Aug. 17, 2020 (CTV News)
VICTORIA -- A lengthy thunderstorm on Vancouver Island on Sunday sparked more than a dozen new wildfires on the island, including one near Laketown Ranch, a popular outdoor music venue.
According to the BC Wildfire Service, 14 new wildfires were ignited on Vancouver Island by lightning strikes during the thunderstorm.
Fire information officer Dorthe Jakobsen says that crews are already working across the island, many of which are still assessing and prioritising different scenes.
Jakobsen says most of the new fires are in the South Island, with roughly nine wildfires north of Sooke, two burning near the Cowichan area and one located on Mt. Hayes, near Ladysmith.
“Thunderstorms brought dry lightning to the area yesterday and because we had some hot dry weather there was lots of dry fuel on the ground that could easily get ignited by these lightning strikes,” she said.
Dry lightning occurs when a thunderstorm produces lightning but not rain. According to Environment Canada, the storm over Vancouver Island yesterday did produce precipitation, but it all evaporated before it touched the ground, leaving conditions dry.
The owners of Laketown Ranch near Cowichan Lake are on alert for one wildfire that is burning in the area.
“I don’t know if (the lightning) was all over Vancouver Island but it was all over the Cowichan Valley,” said ranch owner Greg Adams.
“There was a lot of lightning strikes and consequently we’re going to have a lot of flare-ups,” he said.
Adams said firefighters have warned him that the closest wildfire is roughly five to six kilometres away from Laketown, over a hill.
The news has Adams preparing the outdoor venue in case of an emergency.
“It’s not just Laketown that we’re worried about, we’re concerned for everyone here. I just don’t want it to go towards anyone’s property or towards Lake Cowichan,” he said.
To protect the ranch, sprinklers, fire hydrants, fire hoses and water trucks have lined the property.
Adams say that fire officials from Lake Cowichan and other nearby municipalities helped prepare the outdoor venue for emergencies like this.
“If it ever gets close to us, we just turn everything on,” he said.
Adams says he’s not certain what the state of the fire is, though he has seen lots of firefighting activity Monday.
“I know there’s boots on the ground up there and I know the guys have been flying the helicopters back and forth,” he said.