A fire in Marks Park yesterday was small and put out within a few minutes with no injuries reported, according to Parksville’s fire chief.
The fire burned one tent, which was abandoned when the fire department arrived.
“This is the first fire in a tent in an outdoor camp that I can recall for many years,” said Fire Chief Marc Norris.
The exact cause of the fire is not known, but propane cooking and heating equipment were found, which could have been involved, he said.
RCMP escorted illegal campers out of the area later in the morning after the fire was put out. Cpl. Jesse Foreman said police accompanied bylaw officers as a precaution because of illegal campers refusing to comply in the past.
“Bylaw officers don’t have many means on them to protect themselves — like any intervention tools, they’re not going to get in a confrontation,” said Foreman.
Homeless people are allowed to set up camp temporarily in city parks between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. the next day, according to a Parksville bylaw. They are also allowed to have a fire for cooking, as long as the fire is contained in a barbeque or fire pit and covered with a grate.
Campers must also follow rules including keeping their shelter at least five metres away from any trail, packing up all their possessions and leaving in the morning and cannot interfere with city workers.
City staff will conduct a hazard assessment and signs are posted advising the public to stay out of the park.
“The fire was relatively extensive and our crews, with heavy equipment moving in and out, will now be working in the park to cleanup fire debris and assess the affected areas,” said Deb Tardiff, manager of communications for the city, in a media release.
The fire affected some cedar trees, which were already in a compromised condition, creating a need for the hazard assessment, according to the city.
Marks Park will be closed for at least the next few days due to the fire and because a significant windstorm is expected, the city said.