Carelessness with fire costs taxpayers thousands Saturday

Malahat fire chief Rob Patterson's frustration was palpable concerning taxpayer dollars toasted during Saturday's four-alarm forest fire that burned 1½ hectares near Spectacle Lake.

"It was human-caused for sure. There was no lightning, so it couldn't have been Mother Nature," he said of the 4:30 p.m. blaze.

By midnight, it was snuffed by 20 members of the Malahat, Mill Bay and Shawnigan Lake halls, plus aircraft ordered by provincial forestry agents.

"The area was Crown land, that make it forestry (jurisdiction)," Patterson said, thankful a nearby home, Spectacle Lake trailer park, and even Malahat's fire hall, weren't lost to what he believed was carelessness.

The case is under investigation.

"It was right in our backyard."

The forest-fire fight began after a resident called the hall to report heavy smoke in the trailer park.

Forestry officials called in a helicopter and a water bomber to help extinguish the blaze, fed by tinder-dry conditions.

All that effort was costly to the public purse, he signalled.

"It's $400 an hour just for the helicopter, and I bet it was $10,000 in manpower — that doesn't even count the loss of (trees), and nature," Patterson said, hoping against more forest fires this season.

"We've been very lucky not to have too may of these events.

"I hope it's the last one, but I don't think it will be, with a long drying time."

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