A perimeter has been established around the Burns Bog fire, which is now 50 hectares and is close to forested land, cranberry farms and an industrial park.
But even with over 80 firefighters and several water bombers battling the blaze, there’s no guarantee the fire will be quickly extinguished.
“They’re very difficult to get out,” says Donna McPherson, fire information officer for the Coastal Fire Centre, of bog fires.
“It takes a lot of persistence to put them out.”
At issue is the amount of peat in Burns Bog, which is approximately 3,000 hectares in size. The stored carbon and methane means flames can sink underneath the surface of the bog, but continue to burn.
“The biggest problem with the peat is when the fire gets down in the peat, it can travel underground, and can pop up somewhere else a long way away. That’s what you really have to watch for,” says Delta Mayor Lois Jackson.
If history is any indication, it could be some time before the fire is fully extinguished. In 2005, a 200-hectare fire burned for three days, but it took eight days to be fully extinguished. In 1996, a fire 170 hectares in size took two days to be extinguished, and covered Metro Vancouver in smoke and ash.
WATCH: A report from the 2005 fire (Originally aired September 15, 2005)
Burns Bog is the largest peat bog around a developed area on the west coast of North America, and is an important migratory stopping point for birds, with over 175 different species making the area home at one point or another during the year.
The 3,000-hectare wilderness — eight times larger than Stanley Park — is also home to 300 types of plant species, and 28 mammals.
“It’s always concerning when there’s a fire in the bog. Fires are something that do happen in a bog naturally, but when you have fires this close to civilization, it can be extremely concerning,” says Eliza Olson, Burns Bog Conservation Society President.
Olson credits Delta and Metro Vancouver for ensuring the protected areas of the bog are moist and raising the water levels. But because the fire began in an unprotected area in the northwest area of the ecosystem, she worries the peat was dry and vulnerable to flames.
Now, fire crews must contend with the threat of the fire spreading north to the Tilbury Industrial Park – or east, into the heart of one of Metro Vancouver’s most important ecological areas.