Forest fire breaks out on Burnaby Mountain

Photo courtesy of CTV News

A small fire broke out near the Cardiac Trail on Burnaby Mountain just before 10 a.m. on Sunday morning. The fire spread on the north side of the mountain before firefighters were able to respond, but remained a few hundred metres’ distance from SFU campus.

Initially reported by CBC as only four and a half square metres in size, according to Burnaby’s assistant fire chief Rick Weir, the blaze grew to 30 by 80 metres.   

Around 40 firefighters and multiple emergency vehicles were dispatched to the contain the fire. “It grew rapidly, it got up into the canopies of the trees,” Weir told CTV News.

Officials suspect the fire was the result of human activity, likely due to a disposed cigarette. Weir warned the public to take extra precautions, especially with cigarettes, due to dry conditions.

“To the public, really be careful out there with your smoking material,” Weir told CTV. “The forests are tinder dry, this is my fifth [fire] in three days that I’ve been on. . . The crews are working extremely hard right now.”

The fire was contained with no risk of reignition by 3 p.m. that same afternoon.

SFU Safety and Risk Services (SRS) issued a statement regarding Metro Vancouver’s Air Quality Advisory with personal health tips and a notice on the prevention of further fires.

The statement noted that Campus Security has already responded to over 17 grass fires on Burnaby campus this summer, “most of which were determined to be caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes.”

The statement echoed the concerns of the Burnaby fire department: “For the safety of everybody, it is important that flammable materials be discarded in approved containers and never just carelessly discarded on the ground.”

This is not the only fire to break out on Burnaby Mountain in recent history. In July 2010, a fire on the south side near the base of Burnaby Mountain saw the eviction of multiple homes in the area. The fire was started by three children playing with matches. Although the fire grew to one hectare — 10,000 square meters — before it was extinguished, damage was minimal.

The 2010 fire was costly, putting a strain on emergency service availability, and disrupting traffic flow on Burnaby Mountain.

The Kinder Morgan oil tanks on the south side of the mountain pose an additional hazard, which, if ignited could result in “a catastrophic explosion,” according to Burnaby Fire Department. However, there has never been a fire at the facility, and KM has undertaken safety measures specifically in regard to fire prevention.

Steven MacLean, senior director for SFU Campus Safety and Security Services encourages students on campus in the event of an emergency to check the university’s online platforms for updates and instructions.

While the incident was not severe enough to call for an evacuation, Maclean assured, “that decision would not be taken lightly,” and would “be made in consultation with University administration and local authorities as soon as it became clear that there was a developing threat to life safety.”

With files from CBC, Global News, and CTV News