Fire on decommissioned bridge near Tofino fought by Tla-o-qui-aht members

Fire on decommissioned bridge near Tofino fought by Tla-o-qui-aht members
Jessie Masso/Facebook
Community members from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation helped fight a fire on a bridge over Kennedy Lake.

Earlier this month community members came together to fight a bridge fire near a heavily forested area near Tofino, but it has left them confused why there was no official response to the blaze.

Second Bridge was on fire on the west side of Kennedy Lake near Tofino on June 5. The report was initially posted to a Facebook group so members from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation went to check it out.

“My brother called, he was heading out to work on the way to work. He had seen on Facebook that there was a fire at Second Bridge, and the post was actually from about 15 hours before,” Hjalmer Wenstob told CHEK News in an interview.

“He was gonna go check it out with our parents. So I said, ‘Well, I’ll come out with you, it’s gonna be a bit of a dangerous area on West Main and down that area.’ … And when we got out there, there was a crew of three guys from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation fishery, from our Nation there and they were fighting the fire at the far end of the bridge.”

Wenstob says the bridge is about 300 feet long, and the crews from the Nation’s fishery were working to make sure the fire didn’t reach the shore.

“It was all not just burning, but burning very, very quickly and very hot. So we were looking to put our end out, but all we had was buckets and some squirt cans, just for small fires,” Wenstob said.

“And after about an hour of throwing buckets on the fire, I ended up actually joining the Tla-o-qui-aht crew at the other end, and my brother and my mom went out and they got a pump and they launched his boat in the lake and brought the boat around and then we could actually attack it from the water.”

The next day, the Nation went and bought a firefighting pump to help fight the fire, but Wenstob says the fire had grown overnight so one pump wasn’t enough. They then went to the Ucluelet Rent-It Centre which donated a pump to use.

“It was not a firefighting pump, but it threw a lot of water and having the two pumps on there and two boats going back and forth in the bridge all day, we finally got enough water on the fire to put it out,” Wenstob says.

While Wenstob is happy that the fire was able to be put out, and he is proud of the crew that worked on it, he’s puzzled by the lack of official response.

“When we were there, we had no resources no other government agencies come out and join of course BC parks and federal parks has a say in the area, the two districts of course Uclulet and Tofino and then forestry, we didn’t see any of them,” Wenstob said.

BC Wildfire Service tells CHEK News it was notified of the fire but was unable to assist since it was a structure fire, not a forest fire.

Wenstob says something will need to be done to ensure a proper response if a similar incident were to happen in future.

-With files from CHEK’s Tchadas Leo

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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