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Suspicious fire scorches tree in Esquimalt park, damages crow nest

A neighbour says the cedar tree “went up like a torch” in the fire, which looked like it was deliberately set

A suspicious fire in Esquimalt’s Memorial Park over the weekend not only scorched a large cedar tree, it damaged a nest of fledgling crows.

Nearby resident Mary Janack noticed three young birds on the ground while walking her dog on Sunday and was still searching for at least one of the babies, which had a burned eye and neck, on Monday afternoon.

She called the B.C. SPCA’s WildARC facility in Metchosin, which told her to collect the young crows for treatment, but finding the little ones was proving difficult, with all the undergrowth at Memorial Park and protective adults diving down on passersby.

By mid-afternoon, Janack had managed to find one of the baby crows, which wasn’t burned but was showing signs it had been injured. A representative from WildARC was scheduled to retrieve the chick later Monday.

Janack managed the rescue despite being constantly dive-bombed by several adults. “I wore my bike helmet and they were hitting it pretty hard.”

She said the badly burned chick more than likely died from its injuries.

“It’s very sad and it makes you think about all the animals that get hurt and killed in the larger forest fires we’ve been having,” said Janack. “It’s really a reminder about how really dry it is right here in [Esquimalt] and how just one cigarette butt … and everything can just go poof.”

She said the cedar tree “went up like a torch” and she’s worried other cedars in the township and region are in similar distress because of the extreme drought conditions over the past few years. Janack said even with recent rains, everything remains very dry and at risk of fire.

“A lot of apartments and houses have cedar trees right up against them, and it makes you wonder what would happen if they catch fire.”

Janack suspects the blaze was intentionally set. “You could tell at the base of the tree that someone was trying to start a fire, either for cooking or to keep warm … who knows?”

The Esquimalt Fire Department did not return calls by deadline. Crews knocked down the fire, which burned off much of the cedar’s greenery and scorched a parks department shed nearby.

Those living close to the park used hoses to keep the blaze down, said Robbie Young, manager of Esquimalt’s parks department.

He said the large cedar will be removed Tuesday. “It’s damaged by the fire and dried out,” he said.

Young said the fire is a reminder to all park users not to discard cigarettes or use any kind of flame.

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