Two years ago, many North Quadra Island residents woke up to the sound of explosions. The pre-dusk sky had turned red. A house on Bold Point was engulfed in flames. When the RCMP arrived, they discovered the main power line was down. Three of the occupants were sent to the hospital with smoke inhalation. As this part of the island is protected by BC Wildfire Service, whose mandate does not include structures, no fire department came to their rescue. All that remained of their home was a chimney. While this is an area better known for its forests and abundant marine life, there are more than 250 properties. 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.
As you can see in the map above, only houses in the more densely populated southern portion of Quadra are currently protected by the Quadra Island Fire Department.
“We’ve had various conversations with a couple of residents that wish for the Strathcona Regional District to pass its own burning bylaw regulation for that area, which we the authority under the local government act to do, if that is what the residents would like. So we are going to attempt to survey all the residents in North Quadra to get a picture on how they feel about the current service, if they would like the current service changed and if they would like the Strathcona Regional District to take over the authority for open burning in that area, ” says Shaun Koopman, the SRD’s Protective Services Coordinator.
North Quadra Residents Want
“We on northern Quadra have tried to crack this nut since 1960, when a line was drawn just past Heriot Bay,” Roberta Stevenson posted in the comments section of the Cortes Radio facebook page.
On July 9, 2017, Dalyce Dogterom presented the SRD Board with a petition, signed by 523 Quadra residents, calling for a uniform set of
fire prevention regulations for the entire island.
Fire Just Before The Granite Road Turnoff
Dogterom mentioned another fire,” … Last year the Fire Dept. crossed their jurisdictional boundary to fight a fire caused by a branch falling on a hydro line during a severe windstorm. The decision was made due to Coastal Fire being reluctant to attend. The fire was deemed too small when first reported. Within minutes it was spreading quickly in extreme wind. If the Fire Dept. had not attended when they did there may have been no stopping it.”
Another Quadra resident, Dagan Smith, wrote, “I was there very soon after it started … Yes, Quadra Fire did arrive first and they worked until the fire was out! They did a great job, the only complaint I hear was how long it took for the fire fighting to actually start but that was BC Hydro not turning off the power right away.”
“Yes there was a wind storm that day, I can’t say how much harder it
made the fire to fighting as there was, in my opinion, no significant
wind when I was on site and no wind in Granite bay at the time. It’s
often like that with South/easterly winds.”
“Please don’t get me wrong. Any fire from a cigarette in moss to a full
fledged forest fire is dangerous to all who live on Quadra, but we need
to be realistic about the actual risk we face, as ( and this is my
opinion) there have been some massively destructive fires on Quadra in
the past, but fire fighting has come a long way in the last 90 years …
[and] the amount of civilian air traffic around Quadra will make
reporting times increasingly short.”
“We Need To Act Now”
In her petition, Dogterom states, ” … The economics of Quadra Island are heavily dependant on the north of the island. Several Woodlots, Timberwest, Aquaculture, Tourist Operators and Main Lake Provincial Park, as well as Walcan Seafoods, the largest employer on the island, are outside the South Quadra Fire Protection District … With more people living, working and playing on the island, and with hotter, dryer, windier conditions in the summer, we need to act now. Anything that can be done in an effort to make the island safer from human caused fires should be done …”
At the January 29, 2020, SRD Board meeting, Regional Director Jim Abram said, “There have been many meetings and phone calls … This is exactly what the people of North Quadra want.”
The SRD survey is expected to cost $2,500, which will be taken from the Area C Feasibility Study Reserve. Residents will be mailed forms before the end of January and given six weeks to respond.
Historic Fires On Quadra Island
According to Quadra Island’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan, 58% of the island (15,908 ha) burned during the great fire of 1925. There were also a number of fires that burned a total of 1,820 hectares on the southern finger of the island in 1919.
While most of the fires between 1950 and 2010 were less than four hectares in extent, there were a total of 26 fires per decade the 1970s & 2000s. The vast majority of these were caused by humans, rather than lightning strikes.
Photo at top of page: Umpqua NF Fires, 2017, Oregon (public domain)