Canyon-Lister Fire Department (CLFD) volunteers were called out on Sunday afternoon to extinguish six fires on Goat River Bottom that might have been started by a firebug.
Sunday’s callout was the fifth within the last month, CLFD Chief Glenn Guthrie said on Tuesday.
“They would appear to have been deliberately set,” he said. “And they have gone from small fires a month ago to bigger and bigger ones — this is stretching our resources to the max.”
Guthrie credits Creston resident Bob Cull, a heavy equipment operator, for reducing the hazard in the most recent incident in which fires were set within a 300-400 yard area.
“If Bob Cull hadn’t moved in with an excavator we’d have been in big trouble,” he said. “He was able to cut some firebreaks in the brush. Without him we would have been there for two days.”
Guthrie said his firefighters didn’t get much of a break after ten of them worked into Sunday evening.
“We were back yesterday to fight another one,” he said.
“At first we thought the fires were the result of kids playing or starting a bonfire. But things have certainly progressed.”
The progression over the past month fit the pattern for an arsonist, Guthrie said.
“Statistically, that’s how fire setters start, with small fires, then they gradually get bigger and happen more often,” he said. “Some residents think someone might be trying to redirect the river flow (at least one fire was set in a log jam on the Goat River) but I’m not sure how that could work.”
Of concern to the chief of a volunteer crew is the pressure the number of callouts puts on his firefighters.
“Yesterday we only had two guys available,” he said. “On Sunday we got lucky because more people are home and not out working.”
Guthrie met Monday with RCMP Cpl. Charlotte Joa to express his concerns that the fires might be deliberately set and an investigation is underway.
Anyone with information about the fires is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-428-9313 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).