Pictured is the remnants of a parachute from a marine distress flare that exploded close to the ground on the evening of Dec. 12 and was found in a lower branch of a garry oak tree next to a home in Maple Bay. (Submitted photo)

Pictured is the remnants of a parachute from a marine distress flare that exploded close to the ground on the evening of Dec. 12 and was found in a lower branch of a garry oak tree next to a home in Maple Bay. (Submitted photo)

Neighbours horrified as dangerous marine flares shot off near homes in Maple Bay

Illegal to use distress flares except in emergencies

A couple in Maple Bay are raising the alarm after marine distress flares were fired off on the night of Dec. 12 near their home.

Sally Meecham and Paul Bland live close to the water in Maple Bay on Arbutus Avenue.

Although the popular annual Christmas afloat event was cancelled this year due to the pandemic, about six boats decked out in lights held their own marine parade in the bay anyway that night, and one or more people near Arbutus Avenue fired off two marine distress flares in an apparent ill-suited and dangerous effort to help celebrate the small parade of boats.

Bland said the first flare was launched from somewhere behind his home and then exploded before it came close to landing on one of the Christmas float boats.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN VALLEY REGIONAL DISTRICT CONSIDERS OPTIONS FOR FIREWORKS AFTER RECEIVING COMPLAINTS

“The second flare was not launched in the air but rather shot more directly and it exploded right in front of us,” he said.

“A neighbour and us thought there was an earthquake or power poles exploding. The entire interior of the house level we were on glowed a bright orange, and the doors and the house shook. It goes without saying that had we been sitting outside on our chairs watching the floats, or had the parachute flare exploded on a rooftop, the destruction would have been disastrous.”

Bland said, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve just days away, the couple is concerned about more marine distress flares being fired off in the area.

“We anticipate it may be a very long time before we are able to enjoy other public celebrations without hiding and being prepared to flee or douse flames,” he said.

“Our neighbours in the bay are also very angry and concerned and they too are worried for their safety. In a year that has been anything but normal, the last thing any of us wants is someone’s home or the bay being set ablaze.”

RELATED STORY: HOLIDAY LIGHTS TWINKLE ON WATER OF MAPLE BAY FOR SAIL PAST

Distress flares, which burn at the melting point of steel and contain toxic chemicals, are very dangerous and can cause severe injuries.

They are designed for marine distress and are deliberately difficult to extinguish.

A statement from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment said the police had not been made aware of this incident, and encouraged anyone involved to reach out to report safety concerns.

The statement said the Canada Shipping Act Collisions Regulations notes that it is an offence to use a distress signal for a purpose other than to indicate distress, or to use a signal that may be confused with a distress signal.

Each of these offences can come with a $173 fine with a surcharge.

“Transport Canada has created a guide for marine safety that states that flares should always be shot into the wind and away from the vessel at a 45-degree angle so it will drift back over your position,” the statement said.

“Never point a flare at another person, and always treat flares as explosive devices. North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP encourages anyone using marine vessels or around the water to ensure that they have the necessary and required safety equipment and that others with them are also acting responsibly.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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