Douse those beach fires!

Smouldering beach fires in Campbell River has resident fuming...and coughing

Firefighter Andy Stewart puts out a smouldering and unattended beach fire in Willow Point in August 2006.

Carol Westrum was thrilled to retire in Campbell River and thought she had found the perfect home – a waterfront view and close to the Sea Walk.

But now she’s thinking otherwise.

With the warmer weather, people have been lured down to the shore along the Sea Walk to enjoy beach fires. The only problem, said Westrum, is that at the end of the evening people aren’t putting their fires out and leaving them to smoulder unattended.

Westrum, who lives in an apartment by the highway, said she and her neighbours breathe in the smoke.

“Acrid smoke from the fires and its lingering effects drift towards and into our homes making it impossible to leave one’s windows or doors open,” Westrum wrote in a letter to city council.

She’s concerned about the impact the smoke is having on her health.

“Its effects cause extreme health difficulties, especially for those with lung and breathing conditions,” Westrum said.

Fire Chief Dean Spry confirmed the fire hall has received several calls already this year to attend beach fires that haven’t been put out.

“It’s always a problem when people light them and they put sand on them to put them out,” Spry said. “They smoulder a bit and the smoke lingers around the beach area. The problem I see is people don’t put them out properly. If people put a lot of water on them I don’t think the smoke would be an issue, depending on which way the wind is blowing.”

But Westrum said the smoke is a problem and she wants the city to do something about it.

“I am requesting that the mayor and council consider a bylaw that would ban campfires burning along the sea wall where residences are located,” Westrum said. “A step forward by the city for enacting this bylaw would be a step forward towards a healthier living environment for all citizens.”

Spry doesn’t think a beach fire ban is necessary – at least not in most in areas.

“I think if people did what they’re supposed to do it’s something that can be allowed,” Spry said. “If you’re burning with dry, clean wood and putting them out after you’re done, I don’t think there would be as big a problem with the smoke.”

However, Spry said it would be worth reviewing beach fires along the shore between Hidden Harbour and Big Rock.

“I would say there’s some consideration for restriction right there,” Spry said. “Properties are right on the ocean and there’s nothing between them and the beach. It’s those properties where I could see there being a problem.”

But between Rotary Park and Willow Point most of the homes are across the highway and Spry said there shouldn’t be a problem as long as people bring a bucket and douse their fires before they leave.

“I’m not sure what council is prepared to do,” Spry said. “But Campbell River is known for its beach fires. It’s advertised when promoting Campbell River.”