Saanich residents put the brakes on the park fire – twice


A neighbour’s garden hose and another’s jogging regimen helped protect residents around Playfair Park from a sudden grass fire on Thursday (July 28).

Thomas Russell, who lives on Duke Street just south of Playfair Park, said one of his neighbors was returning from his usual morning run when he spotted smoke and flames on his and Russell’s side of the park towards 11:00. The neighbor quickly alerted Russell, whose hose they used to put out the fire from the safe elevation of a rocky slope.

With the help of several other residents, the two neighbors brought the blaze under control by the time the Saanich Fire Department arrived on the scene shortly after. Russell advised the firefighters, who also ended up using his hose, possibly due to the lack of a nearby hydrant, to approach the fire from the northwest from Judge Place. This proved easier for the crew than accessing the fire through Russell’s yard and led them to finish the owners’ job quickly.

Saanich fire Captain Tim Hanley said a four-person crew responded to the incident, which he described as a grass fire and used Russell’s hose because he was already at the site. No cause for the fire has been identified, but Hanley said some areas of the park were becoming quite dry and highly combustible due to hot summer conditions.

He encouraged residents and other park users to exercise caution in these areas, especially when smoking.

Shortly after firefighters left, Russell noticed more smoke under a thin layer of moss and shrubbery and rushed out with a bucket of water to put out the remains of the fire. He watched him closely for some time afterwards, but did not feel the need to call the fire department back.

Part of what puts Playfair Park at risk is the fact that it has no established path from which visitors could notice such a fire, he said. He has experienced several similar close calls with fires in the past, often due to reckless smoking, and numerous instances where he has found evidence of extinguished fires. He worries, with the winds historically blowing fires in the direction of his home.

Russell is happy that Saanich’s parks plan includes replacement restrooms and possibly a fire hydrant for Playfair Park. For now, he and his neighbors plan to continue to keep their eyes peeled for smoke.

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