The Pendrell Sound wildfire on East Redonda Island northwest of Powell River was human caused as a result of negligence and stupidity, according to BC Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development senior compliance officer Mark Scott.
“We have been able to conclude that natural causes are not the mechanism for that fire starting,” said Scott.
Natural resource officers believe they are close to identifying the individual or individuals responsible for causing the Redonda fire this summer.
Scott said a boat was observed very close to the source point and the cause is related to building a campfire to burn garbage.
“We have information that tends to suggest the responsible party, but we need more information to connect the dots; we are pretty confident,” said Scott. “The more information we get in our investigation, the more successful we're going to be in bringing forward charges and cost recovery.”
If whoever caused the fire is found and charged, the cost recovery could be enormous.
“That is whatever the costs are for government in fighting that fire,” said Scott. “If there's a responsible person who did start it without authority, which is what we believe, 100 per cent of the cost will be recovered, including the ecological and resource values that may be compromised.”
However, government does not often seek recompense from individuals simply because the guilty party usually does not have the financial means to pay.
From 15.5 hectares when the wildfire was first reported on August 24, it has grown to 607 hectares as of September 13, according to BC Wildfire Service communication assistant Dorthe Jakobsen.
“It probably might have grown a little bit but we don't know that yet as we haven't had visibility to fly,” said Jakobsen.
Visibility was limited in recent days by cloud and rain.
Jakobsen said the fire is classified as being held, which means BCWS does not think it will grow further.
East Redonda Island is an ecological reserve. The largest complement of firefighters onsite was 15. They worked with two helicopters to put in a control and sprinkler line.
When the fire started, natural resources received a number of reports from boaters anchored in the Pendrell Sound area, according to Scott.
“There were other boats we haven't been able contact or identify so we're hoping maybe some of those folks will come forward,” said Scott.
Anyone with information about what they observed on or about August 24 is asked to contact the Powell River office of Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations at 604.485.0734 and ask for Scott or the lead investigator on the file, Tony Carroll. Scott’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.