maple bay fire July 7 2021 Duncan
Smoke from the fire was visible from all around. Photo by Jared Qwustenuxun Williams
Cowichan Valley Vancouver Island

Reporter’s Notebook: Fire at 1580 Maple Bay Road

‘The idea of a forest fire is terrifying to me. One on our sacred mountain is even more terrifying, if that's at all possible,’ writes Jared Qwustenuxun Williams

When someone says there is a fire on Mount Tzouhalem, I have to go see for myself. The idea of a forest fire is terrifying to me. One on our sacred mountain is even more terrifying, if that’s at all possible.

The fire began around 5 p.m. on July 7 at a house on Maple Bay Road and quickly spread to adjacent bush, according to a news release from the Municipality of North Cowichan. Approximately 50 firefighters from the five fire halls, 10 pieces of equipment, two ambulances, and air assistance from the BC Wildfire Service responded to the fire. 

“With the severely dry conditions, this fire could have quickly spread,” said Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s Manager of Fire and Bylaw Services, in the news release. “We all have a role to play during times of high wildfire risk, and we’re thankful to the nearby residents who called this fire in quickly. That combined with the rapid response by our firefighters kept this fire from risking other properties and having devastating results.”

maple bay road fire
Fire trucks respond to the fire on Maple Bay Road. Photo by Jared Qwustenuxun Williams

I want to raise my hands to the fire crews that responded so quickly and as always risked their safety to ensure the safety of the community.

A week ago, at the height of the deadly heat wave, I had to go outside for a few minutes and intentionally stand in the record heat. I had to stand there first hand experiencing the beating sun, feeling its power, it’s piercing seer, my skin exposed to it’s rays. I had to intimately know what that heat feels like, because this is unprecedented in my nation’s history. 

Almost instantly my thoughts went to the river. How would the fish survive and move in the warmer water? How do the minnows find their way to the sea? What new bacteria grows will grow in these warmer waters? Can our river survive this? 

The Cowichan River is already too hot this year for many fish to survive, one scientist reports. More than a billion sea animals likely died in the heat wave, in unsurvivable ocean temperatures, another scientist estimates.

maple bay road fire
Healthy forests reduce fire risk. Photo by Jared Qwustenuxun Williams

In that heat I thought about the forest. How would the deer and bear cope with this heat? How would the beaver survive if the river runs dry or hot? Oh how the clear cuts and slash piles must bake in this sun. How the rocks of the mountains must burn away their moss.

It’s not a stretch to realize that places with healthy forests stay cooler. Even in urban areas, keeping trees around can make a big difference to the temperatures felt on the ground. 

The heat, and the extreme risk of fire, in Quw’utsun (Cowichan) is not normal. This is new, and a result of climate change

Already, fire crews from the Cowichan region are headed to the Interior, where fires are raging and the air is filled with dangerous smoke. Police are handing out $1,150 tickets for violating the ongoing campfire ban, but there are better reasons to avoid any and all activities that could lead to a wildfire.

Stay safe siem nu siiye’yu (respected friends) and don’t smoke, light fires, or even fart too loudly in the woods. The last thing Quw’utsun needs is a forest fire.