Island crews respond to three new wildfires; Cameron Bluffs, Newcastle Creek still ‘being held’

Island crews respond to three new wildfires; Cameron Bluffs, Newcastle Creek still 'being held'
BC Wildfire Service handout image
An aerial view of the Cameron Bluffs wildfire on Vancouver Island.

Fire officials on Vancouver Island are urging people to obey region-wide fire bans following an uptick in local wildfires believed to be human caused.

So far this year, there have been 62 wildfires in the Coastal Fire Centre, which includes places like the Island, Lower Mainland and Haida Gwaii, and all have been human caused, according to fire information officer Donna MacPherson.

That includes two new fires discovered around 6:20 a.m. Wednesday at Beaver Lodge Lands in Campbell River, where MacPherson says both are now under control thanks to the five fire personnel that arrived on scene.

She says the fires are suspected to be human caused, and one, previously listed as “out of control,” was found in a stump. The BC Wildfire Service responded because Beaver Lodge Lands is a provincial park.

An out-of-control fire is defined as one that’s “continuing to spread and is not responding to suppression efforts,” according to information on the BC Wildfire Service website.

This time last year, the region saw six fires caused by humans, with 30 hectares burned — compared to 1,428 hectares so far this year, and MacPherson says the increase is due to drought conditions.

“Due to the underground drought that we went into the spring with, we had a very, very dry winter and went into a dry spring as well. We’re not expecting a lot of rain. Weather foresters say June could be on the dry side as well. What that means is the fuels underground and aboveground are dry,” she said.

“Trees are stressed,” added MacPherson, noting expansive tree roots only worsen things, as a fire “doesn’t just burn above ground, it can also burn below ground.”

Vehicle fire spreads to land north of Sayward

Another wildfire near Anutz Lake, about 70 kilometres northwest of Woss, was discovered just after 8:10 a.m. Wednesday and is 1.5 hectares in size. It’s currently burning out of control, according to the BC Wildfire Service map.

MacPherson says a vehicle fire sparked this blaze, and eight firefighters and three helicopter crews are working to mitigate the flames.

“The Coastal Fire Centre sent some crews, and I believe the Campbell River Fire Department responded,” she said. “The fire department dealt with the car fire and put it out, and our crews are focusing on the forest fire.”

MacPherson says officials “simply don’t want any new fires,” so she’s pleading with the public to stay vigilant by obeying the region’s fire bans, including the open fire ban and campfire ban implemented on May 18 and June 8, respectively.

“It is dry out there, and it’s expected to continue to be dry. We need the public to stop ignition, obey all fire prohibitions and report fires,” she said.

“The sooner we can get to them, the sooner we can keep them small.”

Cameron Bluffs, Newcastle Creek wildfires ‘being held’

The Cameron Bluffs fire discovered on June 3 near Cameron Lake, east of Port Alberni, is “being held” and is not likely to spread, but it’s still a fire of note at 229 hectares, the Wildfire Service says.

Highway 4 adjacent to the fire remains fully closed to traffic, but it’s expected to reopen to single-lane alternating traffic the weekend of June 24-25 before fully reopening sometime in mid-July. A detour is in effect in the meantime.

Near Sayward, the Newcastle Creek fire is also being held at 208 hectares. This fire was discovered on May 29 and saw as many as 60 firefighters on scene.


Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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