Richmond wildfire burning underground, challenging firefighters

Deputy Chief Kevin Gray said crews facing diffficulty with the fire burning through a marshy wetland

Officials say a wildfire that broke out early Friday in the Vancouver suburbs presents a more hidden challenge for crews than some of the blazes burning across the rest of the province.

Deputy Chief Kevin Gray of the Richmond Fire Department said on Saturday that because the fire is burning through a marshy wetland of dead plant life and moss, flames aren’t necessarily visible above ground.

“The fire burns down in the peat, so down around the bases of some of the roots it’ll burn holes,” said Gray in a phone interview.

Those burnt-out roots can then create pockets in the ground called ash pits, which are well-hidden and can cause significant injuries to firefighters and anyone wandering in the area.

Gray said the ground around the pits can be deceptively soft and can run very deep, adding the initial fall may not be the worst outcome.

“With some ash pits we’ve seen them up to six feet (deep), so you can injure an ankle or a leg,” he said. ”Then with that fall, you fall over and put your hands into burning terrain.”

Other than a few cuts, bruises, and splinters, Gray said none of the 60-person crew made up of the Richmond Fire Department, BC Wildfire Service, and Canadian Armed Forces members had sustained any injuries so far.

The fire’s northern border is near Canadian Forces Base Colonel Sherman Armoury, and Gray said a dozen members of the Armed Forces stepped in to help the fight.

Gray said weather conditions Friday night were helpful for the crews battling the blaze, allowing them to continually drench potential kindling for the fire, such as dead grass and dry wood.

“We had crews off of the south end … continuously flowing water off the street into the brush to protect any houses on the south side,” said Gray.

Capri Alton works at the Island Veterinary Hospital, about one kilometre away from the wildfire. She said the smoke was significantly clearer when she arrived for work Saturday morning than on Friday.

“I’m looking out towards the bog right now and you can’t see a distinct cloud, versus yesterday when you could see a distinct cloud of smoke,” Alton said over the phone on Saturday.

She said none of the animals seemed bothered by the smoke, and the only complaint the office had received was the closure of the road south of the fire, which blocked one of their entrances.

Gray said the crew is on schedule with their objectives for the fire, but he would likely have a better idea for how long the fire could burn by the end of Saturday.

“Overall we’re managing it quite well,” he said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kazakstan’s U20 team takes 4-3 win over Langley university squad

Thursday night’s game is one of four the visitors are playing at the Langley Events Centre.

VIDEO: Langley realtor builds holiday party for kids

Realtor Matthew Rufh hosted a gingerbread house-building party for the Langley Boys and Girls Club.

Charges pending for driver who sped away from police in Langley, crashed

A simple traffic stop escalated into a pileup on 56th Avenue.

Giants defenceman Byram headed to NHL prospects game

The young player is following in the footsteps of former Giant Ty Ronning.

Langley Rams receiver inks with BC Lions

Jevon Cottoy joined the Rams this season and now has a multi-year contract with the Lions.

VIDEO: Sto:lo artist and UFV instructors create award-winning gingerbread house

Chilliwack team wins Vancouver competition with Coast Salish design, solid recipe and laser cuts

MAP: Christmas light displays in the Lower Mainland

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Swap food for fines at Fraser Valley Regional Library

From Dec. 14 through Jan. 22, library patrons can “pay” their fines while helping local food banks

Mike Duffy can’t sue Senate over suspension without pay, judge rules

Duffy’s lawsuit sought more than $7.8 million from the upper chamber

Surrey mayor says city won’t repay $56M spent on LRT, but might pony up $40M in land transfers

There will be no tax increase for Surrey residents resulting from this, McCallum confirms

Language on Sikh extremism in report will be reviewed, Goodale says

A public-safety ministry document indicats terrorist threats to Canada included a section on Sikh extremism for the first time

Questions raised over retailers who shame shoplifters with photos

Alleged theft from a sex shop in Newfoundland led to posts on social media

Most Read