Cameron Bluffs wildfire actually 254 hectares as detour convoys begin

Cameron Bluffs wildfire actually 254 hectares as detour convoys begin
The Cameron Bluffs wildfire is seen in this photo posted to the @TranBC Twitter page on Sunday, June 11, 2023.

The Cameron Bluffs wildfire is larger than crews thought.

The fire of note that continues to burn out of control east of Port Alberni is 254 hectares (ha) in size despite around 15 millimetres of rain in the Cameron Bluffs area this weekend, according to the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).

On Friday, the service said the fire was 208 ha.

However, the Alberni Valley Emergency Program now says “better mapping of the affected area” has led crews to determine the blaze, which is believed to be human caused, is nearly 50 ha larger.

“This increase is not reflective of fire growth,” it said in a Facebook post.

The BCWS website, last updated around 11:50 p.m. Saturday, states the fire is burning in “very steep terrain in unstable rock slopes” above Highway 4, the main route to and from Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet that’s been fully closed to traffic for days.

The stretch of road is shuttered between Koen Road and Cathedral Grove.

As the rain fell, Coastal Fire Centre information officer Donna MacPherson told CHEK News precipitation was “not making a huge impact” on the deep drought underneath the ground. However, she did say crews were experiencing “a bit of a reprieve” from the dampness.

“Right now, they’re seeing what we call a smouldering ground fire. So it’s just smoke on the ground with a little bit of open flame,” said MacPherson.

The wildfire service says there are currently 76 firefighters assigned to the blaze, along with 10 pieces of heavy equipment, four helicopters and an incident management team.

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure recently posted photos to Twitter showing the aftermath of trees falling along the highway near Cameron Lake. It reminded commuters of the ongoing road closure, although a gravel detour is available.

The detour, which directs traffic from Port Alberni to Lake Cowichan via Bamfield, was closed for part of the day Friday as crews worked to extract a vehicle from Francis Lake.

Starting Sunday, four piloted convoys along the logging road are happening daily from Lake Cowichan at 5 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Port Alberni at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. until further notice to “ensure the movement of essential goods, such as fuel and food,” according to TranBC.

SEE MAP: Prioritized convoys carrying supplies on Highway 4 detour begin Sunday

The convoys are “specifically for commercial vehicles (that) will be guided along the detour route, to and from Port Alberni. Commercial vehicles will also be permitted to travel outside of these windows, however, there will be no pilot vehicles at those times,” states a notice.

“Other drivers will be placed behind the convoys because the priority is the movement of essential supplies, such as fuel and food,” it reads.

READ ALSO: Province chose Cowichan detour over Horne Lake Connector for safety

Government officials are urging commuters to travel only for essential purposes and to remember the detour will take about four hours with potentially slow-moving traffic and rough gravel patches, as well as no cell phone network coverage, fuel or food.

“There are narrow sections, gravel stretches, sharp curves and single-lane bridges,” the ministry said, noting up-to-date driving conditions from DriveBC are posted here.

TranBC says Highway 4 will remain closed through the weekend, with an update expected at noon Monday.

The BCWS posts updates about the Cameron Bluffs fire online.

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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