An illegal beach fire ran wild on a south-west beach of Discovery Island on Tuesday morning, threatening the cherished archipelago island. The island is a historic territory of Songhees Nation and while the fire happened on a beach that B.C. Parks manages the entirety of the Chatham and Discovery Islands are sacred to the Songhees. (Ian Cesarec Photo)

Beach fire left unattended sparks Discovery Island blaze

Illegal fires a danger to culture, says Songhees Land Enforcement

A Coastal Fire Centre crew that arrived by helicopter put out a fire on the southwest corner of Discovery Island Tuesday.

The blaze was human-caused, said Coastal Fire spokesperson Marg Drysdale. It was the result of a beach fire left unattended, a problem that plagues the Tl’ches islands (both Chatam and Discovery) as boaters visit the mostly unceded territories year-round and often have illegal beach fires. The area of this beach fire is within the boundary of the Discovery Island Marine Park, said Ian Cesarec of Songhees Land Enforcement, who assisted on Tuesday.

Discovery Island is split three ways, mostly between Songhees and B.C. Parks, with a private parcel owned by locals that is overseen by the Capital Regional District. However, the park is closed at this time and leaving a fire unattended is illegal.

READ MORE: The Chatham Islands are not public property, the beaches are not crown land

“Lightkeepers at Trial Island alerted [authorities] of the fire at 7:30 a.m. [Tuesday],” Cesarec said.

Cesarec was on scene with equipment at 8:45 a.m., joined by a Costal Fire Centre crew of three that arrived via helicopter at approximately 10:30.

“The fire was relatively small for a helicopter assist,” Drysdale noted.

However, the threat is major. Cesarec has assisted in many unattended beach fires on the islands. This one was left up to 48 hours beforehand, he estimated.

The problem is that the below the surface of the beach and the woods adjacent are decayed driftwood and fallen trees, and even floor joists from Songhees longhouses. Cesarec has extinguished unattended beach fires that creep underground and resurfaced 30 feet away.

Cesarec will monitor the area this week to ensure the fire is out.

The islands that were inhabited until the 1960s and there are longhouse depressions and ancestral burial grounds.

“This shows the direct harm to lands and indirect potential harm to personnel during the current situation,” Cesarec said, adding the fire nearly burned centuries of the Songhees First Nations’ cultivated ecosystem that still exists.

Discovery Park has been national news of late for hosting the lone wolf Takaya that showed up in James Bay two months ago and was subsequently killed by a hunter after being relocated.

READ ALSO: Beloved Discovery Island wolf Takaya shot and killed

reporter@oakbaynews.com


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An illegal beach fire ran wild on a south-west beach of Discovery Island on Tuesday morning, threatening the cherished archipelago island. The island is a historic territory of Songhees Nation and while the fire happened on a beach that B.C. Parks manages the entirety of the Chatham and Discovery Islands are sacred to the Songhees. (Ian Cesarec Photo)

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