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Five New Fires Threaten Mushroom Farm

This week a lightning storm sparked many new fires on the west coast of Canada, including five within a 15km radius of our mushroom farm!

Our mushroom farm is in the trees to the left of this of extreme fire hazard.
Our mushroom farm is in the trees to the left of this of extreme fire hazard.

Our mushroom farm first came under threat in late May when a fire got out of control a mere 10km away, and quickly grew to 2 km in diameter.   This Newcastle Creek fire has been held within containment boundaries since June and seemed nearly out.

However last week we were alerted that the Newcastle fire has flared back up, sending smoke up the valley.  Then the promise of rain turned into a nasty lightning storm…

Dark Skies Bring Lighting No Rain

In the midst of the dark skies and our hopeful anticipation for rain, the air was instead filled with flashes of lightning, followed closely by booming thunder – no doubt that the strikes were close.

Despite several storms passing, very little rain fell, leaving our mushroom farm vulnerable to the threat of wildfires. Knowing how tinder dry the forests were, we watched anxiously as lightning strikes illuminated the skies.

Wildfire Threatens Canadian Mushroom Farm
New wildfire started by lightning adds to the smoke obscuring Mt.H'Kusam
Wildfires have a devastating effect on wildlife
Two turkey vultures drying their wings after a brief downpour. We met them while walking in the clearcut adjacent to our farm, scouting for any potential fires caused by the lightening strikes.

Off Duty Firefighter Helps Pinpoint New Fires

After the storm passed, I got a message from my friend Rob Logan,  firefighter and has been battling the massive fires and saving homes in the Interior of BC.   Screenshots from his firefighting app revealed the precise locations of the lightning strikes.  The strikes were dangerously close to our farm.

Despite being back in Sayward recovering from recently being hospitalized from smoke inhalation and heat stroke, Rob was ready to offer his assistance.  Recognizing the urgency of the situation, he zipped over to help us ensure that there were no fires in our vicinity.

On his way, he spotted smoke rising from one of the fires and promptly alerted us. Together, we headed out, driving down Salmon River Main logging road, until we came across a helicopter carrying a bag of water to drop on the fire. The sight brought hope that there was help on hand.

“I was surprised to see flames in the forest below me, and I could hear the fire crackling. Way too close to home!”

The Fire Was Directly Below Us

We hadn’t gotten far before we were flagged down by a driver outside his work truck.  He was part of the fire-fighting crew assigned to the local fires, and urgently asked if we knew of a water source to fill his truck. We led him back on the logging road to the bridge over Elk Creek, where we showed him a reliable water source. 

Eager to assess the situation from a vantage point, we took a switchback off Salmon River Main and ascended the hill to gain a view of the valley and search for any signs of smoke.  We stopped at the best viewpoint, and I climbed a pile of rocks.  Looking down I was shocked to see the active fire just below us.

Lightning had struck an old growth Douglas Fir tree, causing the spire to be blown off and leaving a twisted scar down the tree. Smoke billowed in two distinct plumes, with flames visibly climbing up the trees and into the surrounding forest.

This fire was less than 4 km from our mushroom farm!  We immediately called *5555 to report the fire, and Rob skillfully provided the precise coordinates and conditions of the blaze.

We Held Our Breath Hoping

We watched the fire progress slowly, and Rob noted the presence of a band of alder and maple trees, indicating a wetter area that could potentially hinder the fire’s spread. We waited in anticipation for a helicopter to return and douse the flames with water, but unfortunately, it never did. 

Rob assured us that the firefighters would stay throughout the night, bush wacking through the dark forest to bring the fire under control. As we drove away, we overheard their crew on the radio, instructing them to activate the water pump.  We left feeling confident that they were on it.

Fire Map
Map showing this season's fires on Vancouver Island, with those out of control showing in red Aug 30, 2023
Firefighters silhouetted

Thank You Firefighters!!!

Fortunately, the conditions were in our favour.  High humidity and calm  winds that didn’t fan the flames and allow the fire to spread. This provided the firefighters with an opportunity to bring the fire under control, and within a few days this fire was officially declared extinguished.

We are still facing the challenge of several ongoing fires that are burning uncontrollably. The map is filled with numerous red fire icons, a clear indication of the devastating impact of the recent storm.

While the conditions remain dangerously dry and the prolonged drought continues to pose a significant threat, we are grateful that we still have water in our pond to help douse flying embers should they come our way. 

The recent experience has reminded us of the importance of fire safety, and we urge everyone to remain vigilant and take precautions.

We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the firefighters who risk their lives and work tirelessly to protect our communities. Their selfless acts of service are truly inspiring, and we owe them a debt of gratitude. Please join me in extending our sincerest thanks to these courageous individuals.

Consider also joining us in making a donation to support Canadian families who have been impacted by devastating fires. 

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