A fast-moving fire kept firefighters in Courtenay busy Tuesday afternoon, and investigators believe it to be human-caused.

Crews were called to Simms Park at around 1:30 p.m. for a report of a fire that rapidly spread through brush.

"You had a small fire that spread through this cottonwood fluff here," said Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex. "It’s like gasoline, it just runs fast, you light it up and it just travels."

The fire spread to six separate spots, but crews were able to quickly knock down the flames without injuries or major devastation to the park.

The blaze was first spotted by workers at a lumber yard across the river.

"Heard crackling and looked up and I could see the smoke coming up over the trees," said witness Josh Handley. "Then just noticed the heat and came in and told John there to call 911 there was a forest fire.

Seeing thick smoke in the air, workers were concerned about the safety of the park and in particular, a family of eagles in a nest located directly above the burning brush.

"I get people down here almost on a daily basis just wanting to see what’s going on, how {the eagles} are doing and it would have been a real shame if something had happened," said witness Pete Young. "That tree is pretty dead and it wouldn’t take much."

It was the third call of the day for firefighters in Courtenay.

Earlier in the day crews were called to a bark mulch fire and another fire in a wooded area of the city.

Investigators say all three were likely sparked by cigarette butts.

"A lot of cigarette smokers, even I watched people tossing their butts out of their cars so I remind them that there’s a fine for that if it wants to be imposed," said Bardonnex.

He said if this year's fire season is at all similar to last year's, officials will be handing out hefty fines of up to $575 to careless smokers.

Anyone who spots a wildfire starting or someone throwing cigarette butts is asked to report it to the BC Wildfire Service at 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 from a cell phone.