A stray cigarette nearly ended in disaster June 1.
A smouldering cigarette butt, discarded in the loading zone beside the Snug Cove General Store, sent a nearby bush into flames, and risked jumping to the store and homes that were mere feet away.
General Store manager Nancy Lee was at the front counter at time. “I could smell something burning, but we’d had some work done on our compressors – I went out and couldn’t see anything,” she said.
She’d just made it back to the counter when local volunteer firefighter Eric Michener came running into the store and said there was a fire.
People in the baseball diamond beside the store had already spotted the reportedly tall flames and called 911.
Customers, bystanders and staff raced out to put out the fire. Lee estimates they had twelve people out there, just trying to save the store.
The fire was out before the fire truck even arrived, but locals were still shaken by the experience.
“It could have been catastrophic,” said Lee. “Had it been an hour later, it would have been a different story.” The fire happened at about 4:45 p.m., an hour later the loading doors to the alleyway would’ve been locked, and the impromptu fire brigade wouldn’t have been able to react with the speed necessary to put out the fire.
Fire season’s come early
An unusually dry May has prompted warnings to be fire aware.
“We’re a month ahead of where we usually are when it comes to dryness,” says Fire Chief Ian Thompson.
When Thompson gets back from a firefighters conference in Victoria this week, the fire warning on-island will be switched to high, which means no campfires in public fire rings and pits, though residents can still apply for permits for backyard campfires. Under Metro Vancouver regulations, at high fire warning there’s no smoking permitted on trails, but Crippen Park’s fire danger rating is still listed as moderate.
This doesn’t mean people can be blasé about cigarettes and campfires.
Thompson said that in May alone the fire department received four calls, which is more calls than usual. Two of these calls were to campfires that weren’t totally extinguished – one on Mt. Collins and one at Seymour Bay.
Irresponsible smokers also worry Thompson, “You still see people discarding cigarettes out the car windows,” he said. “People have to be smart and safe.”
A gift for the heart
Now that the ashes have settled, the General Store is looking to thank the community for saving the business.
“If it wasn’t for our customers we wouldn’t be here,” said general manager Nancy Lee.
As a gift to the community, the store will be buying a defibrillator for the front of the building.
“We just want to express thanks and gratitude,” said Lee.