Cameron Bluffs wildfire grows to 208 hectares, some rain in the forecast

Cameron Bluffs wildfire grows to 208 hectares, some rain in the forecast
BC Wildfire Service handout image

The Cameron Bluffs wildfire has grown to 208 hectares, up from 180 the day before, and Environment Canada says there is some rain in the forecast around Port Alberni Friday.

The fire remains designated as an out-of-control wildfire of note. Being a wildfire of note means it is highly visible or poses a threat to public safety, while out of control means it is not responding to suppression efforts.

“Crews are making reasonable progress considering the burning conditions, leaning substantially on aviation resources,” BC Wildfire Service says on its website. “Crews and engines are working early and late on the roadside, taking advantage of the long daylight hours.”

There are currently approximately 60 people, including two unit crews and initial attack crews, four helicopters, eight pieces of heavy equipment and an Incident Command team working on this fire.

BC Wildfire Service says the cooler temperatures are helping with firefighting and containment efforts.

“This morning, fire behaviour is decreased and is displaying a smoldering ground fire with some open flame,” the website says. “Firefighter safety is always a top priority when responding to wildfires, and this fire has sections that are unworkable by firefighters.”

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Currently, there are no evacuation alerts or orders for this fire, but residents are encouraged to sign up for emergency alerts with the Regional District of Nanaimo to be kept informed in the event of an emergency.

“During an Evacuation Order, emergency services personnel (RCMP, Fire Department, Search and Rescue, etcetera) go door-to-door to inform the affected addresses,” said Erica Beauchamp, manager of emergency services at the RDN.

“Emergency alerts as well as evacuation alerts and orders are sent through Voyent Alert, which we encourage residents and visitors to subscribe to. We also utilize our website, Facebook and Twitter channels as well as news releases to the media when evacuation alerts and orders are issued.”

Armel Castellan, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, says while it won’t be a lot, there will be some rain in the Port Alberni area Friday.

“Port Alberni is seeing something they haven’t seen in a long time, which is rain, we’re not expecting colossal amounts,” Castellan said in a Zoom interview, noting there is a chance for heavier rain through the day.

“Our best estimate is about 8 to 10 millimetres, it is possible to see a little bit less and then you know, if it does get hit by a [convection] cell or two, it could see a little bit more as well.”

Castellan says while the rain will be helpful, the effects are likely short-term in terms of dryness in the area.

“Overall, we’re talking about a precipitation deficit, right across the Island and across most of Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, that is so strong that we are going to need to see kind of day-in and day-out precipitation for weeks at a time before we’re feeling like the risk, particularly for wildfire, [lessen],” Castellan said.

While Castellan couldn’t say how this rain may affect the Cameron Bluffs wildfire, he did note elsewhere when there was significant rainfall it did have a brief effect.

“What we know more generally, is that even in the northeast of B.C., and in parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, when they did receive a fair amount of precipitation on the ridge breakdown around the 22nd of May, that was a stall in the advancement of the fire and the kind of aggressive nature,” Castellan said.

“But essentially, it just took a few days after a fairly substantial rainfall to come right back to the type of behaviour it was exhibiting beforehand.”

Highway 4 remains closed due to the wildfire, and the BC Wildfire Service says slope stability experts from the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are engaged in assessment and decision-making about the safety of the highway.

In addition, the only detour available for the highway will be closed from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. to extract a vehicle that rolled into Francis Lake.

The Ministry of Transportation says the road will reopen sooner if the vehicle is able to extracted quickly, but they are asking drivers to avoid travelling on the detour before, during and after the closure to give priority to commercial vehicles.

“The Province urges preparation and patience as long wait times are expected once the detour reopens,” MOTI says. “Drivers should fuel up and bring extra supplies, food and water, and are encouraged to plan trips during daylight hours and to drive with caution.”

Along the detour, there have been checkpoints set up to provide information to travellers. A map of the checkpoints can be seen below.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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