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Massive Wreck Beach Fire (updated: 2004-08-13)

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[burnt stump]
burnt stump on top (328 KB)
You may have heard, seen, or read, that on August 1, there was a forest fire at Wreck Beach. [Globe & Mail] [UBC] The media wrote it covered 8 ha or 4 km², or whatever, which would more or less have burned a whole hillside or park down somewhere. Well, I did my investigation, and it turned out that unless you knew exactly where the fire was, you wouldn't even have seen it. The only clue, from the hilltop a few metres south from Trail #5, was a burnt stump.

[big log]
big BMX log leading downhill (318 KB)
The media, from the authorities, additionally reported that the fire was probably started by a cigarette. Well, the fire's location was so inaccessible, there is absolutely no way it was inadvertently started by a stray cigarette. Investigation ascertained that the affected area was used by bike gangs, yeah, BMX boys or some close facsimile. They had built a course in the exact location, and were forced to abandon and dismantle it earlier this year by GVRD Parks. There was still garbage left on the hill area, notably bottles and cans.

[burned hill area]
looking up burned hill area (207 KB)
I walked down the big log from the top, that the bikers rode on, to the bottom of the steep burnt out clearing. Right beside the log, were the trees that suffered the most damage, but not fatal. Interestingly, the burnt area was about 20 m wide by 30 m long, comprising about 6 ares or 0.06 ha, substantially less, by many magnitudes, than the media reports.

[campfire remnants]
campfire remnants (368 KB)
At the clearing's bottom, were the log remnants from a camp fire. This is exactly where and what would be expected to start the fire, as fires burn up, and the location would definitely be inaccessible to all except someone who wanted to be there. From the side hill (on the last photo), you can see the burnt campfire just through the alder bushes at the clearing's bottom.

Further, the fact that the fire was called in at 4 in the morning points to a campfire escaping and the guilty party calling the alarm in. I think the GVRD is withholding information, as they probably know a lot more about the perpetrators than they are releasing. Maybe they are conducting a more serious investigation.

[bottom burned area from side]
bottom burned area from side (316 KB)
Another serious question is why was there such a quick and massive response to a small fire? There were something like 8 fire units, 40 men, and 3 helicopters all quickly mobilized in the middle of the night. The area is located close to fire hydrants, and I imagine hoses could have been quickly and effectively run.

Luckily, no large trees were killed, and I expect that next year there will be no permanent damage visible from the Massive Wreck Beach fire.

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