Community firefighters move in after province says ‘we’re doing nothing’

  • Aug. 8, 2007 5:00 p.m.

by Jeff King–Twenty-three volunteers from Old Massett and Masset have apparently controlled the fire on Rose Spit, after northwest fire centre and provincial parks staff decided to do nothing about it. The fire started Sunday afternoon, less than a kilometer north of the tree line at Rose Spit, an ecological reserve at the northwestern tip of Naikoon Provincial Park. By Tuesday, it had burned about 500 meters of logs, but since it was not threatening any buildings or timber values, the northwest fire centre in Smithers decided to let it burn, while parks in Tlell was considering what to do “in consultation with the fire centre in Smithers”. That was enough for a group of north end residents to get rolling, and about twenty-three of them turned out between 6 and 10 pm Tuesday. They threw whatever equipment they could get their hands on in the back of a pickup and headed up the beach, where they formed a bucket brigade 250 feet long on the gravel beach. “We did a fire break, both ends were burning, we isolated (the fire) and hoped that would do it, because there’s no way we could tackle the whole 500 yards,” Council of the Haida Nation vice-president Arnie Bellis told the Observer Wednesday afternoon. He said Masset RCMP had two officers helping out, and they are there still, keeping an eye on the smoldering logs”I think that if you say you are managing something, you should manage it. And if you say you are going to provide a service, you should provide it”, Mr. Bellis said about the lack of response from provincial authorities. He added that the forestry truck in town says ‘Report Forest Fires ” on its side. “We did that,” Mr. Bellis said.”We should be out there, Haida should be out there, we own it,” Mr. Bellis said, adding that it was good to see so many people step forward. It was good to see the human spirit is still with us, ” he said. The fire-fighting operation was carried out by the community with the Council of the Haida Nation in cooperation with the local RCMP, Mr. Bellis said.Among those fighting the fire with 5-gallon buckets and back-pack fire extinguishers were May Russ, Eve Hanson, Stan Hanson, Arnie Bellis, Tyler Bellis, Chris Gagnon, Medric Jones, Brodie Swanson, Bill Beldessi, Alan Wilson, Derek Belcourt, Sgt Jim Vardy, Cpl Bob Isaacs, Sean Brennan, Ben Penna, Robert Bennett, Craig Bennett, Georgia Liddle, Marlene Liddle, Henry Dix, Alan Wilson Sr, and Archie Stocker Jr. They also used chain saws, pry bars, pick axes, buckets, and a pump provided by the CHN Fisheries. Marlene Liddle provided us with the following:”So thanks to everyone who showed up to pitch in! The young fellows out there were tireless in carrying bucket after bucket to douse the fire. Looks like it was some very careless person out there who may have just had a little fire for a beach picnic and then left it without making sure it was out. This is not the first time this has happened on this beach, as there was a similar incident closer to Tow Hill last summer. So kudos to those who showed up and helped us out there. It was 4-5 hours of hard work, but we are all going to sleep well and walk a little prouder after what we as a group accomplished!” There’s a story in The Observer saying the fire centre and parks likely would do nothing. We’ll have more on the community firefighters August 16.