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800 Christmas trees burn in fire at Nanaimo tree farm

Firefighting crews, including helicopters, battle fire all night
A helicopter drops water on a fire at Gogo’s Christmas Tree Farm on Monday, July 26. (Photo courtesy Brian Irwin)

About 800 trees burned up last night, but a Christmas tree farm owner is praising the work of firefighters.

Extension Volunteer Fire Department was called to Gogo’s Christmas Tree Farm a little after 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 26, and fought the fire all night along with other crews from Cranberry and North Cedar fire departments and B.C. Wildfire Service.

Mike Gogo, the farm owner, said people living close by alerted him to the fire, in the 1600 block of Nanaimo River Road, and he was able to get there quickly and meet firefighters to direct them to the location.

Kevin Young, chief of Extension fire department, said firefighters who arrived at the scene found a “very aggressive” fire moving through slash and approaching a timber line. The property’s access roads allowed crews to flank the fire and with three trucks shuttling water, there was enough to supply the pumps.

Coastal Fire Centre fire information officer Matt Bell said the volunteer firefighters responded quickly and limited the spread of the fire, but requested the assistance of B.C. Wildfire Service because “it was sort of a situation where they just wanted to make sure it didn’t get beyond their resource capability.” Bell said B.C. Wildfire Service had two attack crews and two helicopters at the scene Monday and one crew there Tuesday.

Gogo said the helicopters were able to make two-and-a-half-minute round trips to fill up with water nearby.

“It was really well done…” Gogo said of the firefighting efforts. “They are the unsung heroes. Those guys came out, obviously they missed their supper and some of them were there all night.”

Young said the main crew was at the scene until 3 a.m. and returned at 8 a.m., with a smaller crew remaining overnight.

Bell said mid-morning Tuesday that the fire was “getting wrapped up” after it grew to about 0.6 hectares.

Extension firefighters will continue to patrol the area over the next two days to guard against any flare-ups.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

“We think it was broken glass inside the forest, broken glass from God knows when, that’s what we assume,” said Mike Gogo, the farm owner.

He said he recently bought a used fire truck for both irrigation and fire protection, but said he opted to stay out of the way of firefighters.

The loss of the Christmas trees happens during a summer drought that Gogo said has probably caused him to lose about 10,000 seedlings.

Young said firefighters rely on the public to keep an eye out for fires.

“It’s obviously tinder dry…” the chief said. “It’s pretty important that we jump on these things pretty quick and get the lead on these fires.”

READ ALSO: B.C.’s active wildfires fall to 250, evacuation orders up to 61

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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