UPDATE: Wildfire burning in Cowichan Valley grows to 4.1 hectares

UPDATE: Wildfire burning in Cowichan Valley grows to 4.1 hectares
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WatchA growing wildfire along the Cowichan River has neighbours worried. On Sunday, crews attacked it on the ground, and a helicopter dropped water from overhead. But, as Skye Ryan reports, a special weather statement is warning of high winds Monday, and no rain is in the forecast.

An out-of-control wildfire burning in the Cowichan Valley continues to grow in size as windy weather is expected to hit the region in less than 24 hours.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the blaze near Riverbottom Road, has increased from 2.5 hectares (6.1 acres) to 4.1 hectares (10.1 acres) in size and remains that way as of Sunday evening.

Julia Caranci, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre, said 16 firefighters, two water tenders, and a helicopter to continue to battle the wildfire that was sparked sometime Saturday.

“All operations are continuing as planned right now. It is still out of control and things continue to go well,” she said.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement alerting of winds of 40 km/h gusting to 60 km/h on Monday afternoon throughout Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley.

“We are preparing for that,” said Caranci. “We will have additional resources and we will obviously be keeping a close eye on all our active fires with winds coming. We are prepared and we don’t believe it will challenge our lines.”

With winds in the forest and conditions still very dry in the area, some nearby residents are becoming increasingly concerned.

Dan Williams, a nearby Sahtlam resident, said in the three decades he has lived in the area, he has never seen it so dry and is worried.
“I’ve lived up here for 32 years and I’ve never seen it this dry in October. In 32 years. The rivers are closed for fishing, it’s in drought conditions. Salmon are struggling. Forest fires in October. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “The winds are forecast to pick up so that’s what concerns us.”

The cause of the wildfire isn’t clear at this point but Tom Howard, a Sahtlam resident who lives nearby, said he believes he heard what started it.

“Just after midnight, there were fireworks explosions, 20, 30, 40, all within a two-minute span. It just kind of seemed strange late at night,” he said, adding that he didn’t notice the blaze until mid-day Saturday. “It’s the other side of the river for now and we just hope it doesn’t spread any further.”

RELATED: Environment Canada warns of windy weather for Vancouver Island

An earlier edition of this story is below

Crews continue to battle an out-of-control wildfire burning south of Riverbottom Road near Sahtlam in the Cowichan Valley.

The wildfire was sparked sometime Saturday near the Cowichan Valley Trail and has grown from roughly 1.20 hectares (2.9 acres) to 2.5 hectares (6.1 acres) overnight, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Julia Caranci, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre, said during the overnight hours the fire did not “challenge” any of the containment lines that had been established by crews. She also said that while the fire did grow overnight, it was only slightly and that the increase is largely due to more accurate mapping data.

“It didn’t grow significantly last night,” she said. “It is mainly that the mapping today is a bit more accurate. So, there really was minimal growth.”

Today, the BC Wildfire Service has deployed 16 firefighters, two water tenders and a helicopter to battle the blaze.

“The status is out of control but things are progressing well in terms of working to put a containment line around the fire and we will be continuing with that work today,” said Caranci.

Caranci stressed that at this point, the wildfire poses no threat to human life or critical infrastructure.

“There is no risk to the public and if there was we would be letting people know or the municipality would be letting people know,” she said. “We are there, we are aware of any nearby values but none of them are threatened or at risk.”

RELATED: Crews battling wildfire near Riverbottom Road in Cowichan Valley

The Cowichan Valley wildfire is one of three out-of-control wildfires currently burning on Vancouver Island.

The two other fires are located near Gold River and were both sparked in late September by lightning. The larger of the two — called the Crest Lake wildfire — is currently an estimated 352 hectares (869 acres) and has remained largely the same for weeks, despite crews’ efforts.

“We have been actioning that fire for a couple of weeks now. Today, we have a unit crew on that fire and a helicopter,” said Caranci. “It’s a modified response because quite a bit of that fire is inaccessible and impossible to action but we are successfully actioning the flanks that we can action.”

The other fire, which is burning near Oktwanch River, is currently listed at 41 hectares (101 acres) and is only being monitored by the BC Wildfire Service at this point.

Caranci said that the fire is being monitored because it is in such inaccessible terrain for crews. She said trigger points have been established so that in case the fire grows to a certain size, crews will respond.

“That fire has not hit any of those trigger points,” she said. “To have fires that are monitor only, they will continue to burn and we expect them to until it rains or snow falls. It is not unusual for some of those fires to be extinguished until the snow falls. That’s just the way it is.”

Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod
Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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