When the South Quadra Fire Protection District was set up, in 1960, everything north of Hyacinthe Bay was left out. According to North Quadra resident Dalyce Dogterom, that’s roughly three quarters of the island. BC Wildfires is contracted to fight forest fires north of the line, but “they will not come on to private property.” At their January 29, 2020, board meeting, the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Board authorized a survey to determine if North Quadra residents want fire protection. Staff says the North Quadra Burning forms have been sent and are also available on the SRD Website.
A Quadra Island Response To The Survey
Dalyce Dogterom sent the following response to the survey:
“It is good that the S.R.D. has invited everyone on Quadra Island to participate in their current survey. South Quadra residents can access the survey online through the S.R.D.; North Quadra gets a mail out. It is however, unfortunate that the public information meeting requested since 2017 did not occur prior to this survey. The public meeting would have provided the clarity that people need to make informed decisions on what they are voting for. There has been confusion, and misconceptions regarding what the initiative for a new Fire Protection Strategy Plan for Quadra Island is asking for. The initiative is focused on recommendations to be addressed by all government jurisdictions on Quadra Island. There are three components set forth so far, that should have been considered as part of the current survey.”
“All burn regulations should be consistent, and encompass the entire island from north to south on all lands, crown and private property.”
“Fire Hazard Ratings on Quadra Island should be determined on Quadra Island, with all readings taken on this island using the most updated technology in measuring climate conditions.”
“Coastal Fire has a mandate to provide fire suppression service on North Quadra Crown land. Private lands are subject to an if, maybe, how about tomorrow response to fire calls. This is a dangerous precedent, and could result in disastrous results not just in the north, but for the whole island. A mechanism for firefighting on all lands needs to be established as soon as possible.”
“The deadline for the survey is March 27,2020. It is important to keep this discussion alive, and advocate for further discussion on this initiative.
Fire Department Proposal
In 2019, the Quadra Island Fire Department made a proposal to extend their coverage over the island. Two additional fire fighters and a truck would be needed. In the case of a structure fire, the entire department would be paged. As the estimated response time is 30 minutes or more, the initial defence would still be left to neighbours – but the fire department should be able to suppress the flames before they reached the trees. Wildland fires would still be left to BC Wildfires, who might send a helicopter out to survey the situation. If they deemed it necessary, a land crew could be dispatched.
The cost of this service for a $500,000 house was estimated at $780 the first year and $320 for every year after that.
“They rescinded their proposal last summer because people thought it was too expensive, but my whole premise was that there are so many properties they could not get to anyways, up steep 4X4 hills, and have no water. We would just have to stand here and watch it burn,” says Dogterom.
She hopes the Fire Department will contain the blaze, so it does not spread to other properties.
Five Fires In Five Years
Dogterom remembers five fires in her vicinity since 2015. One of these was technically across the line in the South Quadra Fire Protection District, but the fire department had to draw water from a pond on the north side. (The owner’s of that property were not pleased, “Oh you can fight their fire, but you can’t fight ours.”)
- Summer of 2015 – Fire beside the lake.
- 2016 – fire started in the outhouse adjoining Dogterom’s property. The neighbours managed to get the flames under control before the trees caught fire. BC WIldfires sent out a helicopter which observed the incident.
- Dec 17, 2017, the house on the other side of Dogterom’s property burned down.
- Tina Oswald’s cabin, on the lake, caught fire. Once again, it was put out by neighbours.
- The Spring of 2019, Quadra Island Fire Department puts a fire out just across the line -in the protected area.
BC Wildfires Response
When she alerted BC Wildfires about the 2017 house fire, Dogterom was told, “Well you are out of the fire district ma’am. Stay away.”
I said, “Well look, I have to phone the neighbours and let everyone know because there is nobody to help us but ourselves around here.”
“Oh no, don’t let anyone go near.”
“Nobody could do anything anyway. it was just a flaming ball; a huge house. We were very fortunate it was in the middle of winter, if it had been a few months earlier or later – we would have been running for our lives.”
A Quadra Island Issue
She is disappointed that the North Quadra Burning survey is only being sent to the North Island. Fire protection is an issue for all Quadra Islanders and everyone should be included in the discussion.
Top Photo credit: Fire by Rob Swystun via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Originally published Feb 11, 2020; some additions made Feb 17, 2020.