The sky above the fire was like an aerial dance Wednesday as multiple helicopters criss-crossed the area dropping water from a nearby lake.

At one point each chopper was dropping a huge new bucket of water on the flames every minute as fire crews fought to get the upper hand.

“We have seven helicopters working on this fire today and we’re bucketing heavily,” said Fire Information Officer Dorthe Jakobsen. “We have 55 firefighters, we have an incident management team set up now and 18 pieces of heavy equipment working.”

By late Wednesday afternoon the latest size estimate was 179 hectares. The winds have been favourable so far pushing the flames to the west and north, away from most of the homes to the east on Nanaimo River Road.

That’s were Dan Gogo lives just a few kilometres from the fire.

“It’s dangerous you know with the conditions of the forest, you know ashes can carry for miles and start new fires,” said Gogo.

Besides the pilots and the dozens of firefighters on the ground, there are people like Gord Judson who was shuttling water back-and-forth for Island Timberlands, even though the fire right now is partially on Timberwest land.

“I fill a port-a-tank, they’ve got a 1500 gallon port-a-tank tank that the ground crews drain out of,” said Judsen. “I fill that up and use the monitor to put out hot spots along the edge of the road so it’s Timberwest property but we’re here to support them in anyway we can.”

It’s a huge multi-agency firefight that isn’t going unnoticed by local neighbours.

“You know they’re saving our life right now and it’s just amazing all the people who are coming together right now, that’s the beautiful part of this and we just want them to know that we’re here for them,” said Cindy Pitvor.

The final six people in the evacuation order zone west of the fire left today.

East of the fire 77 properties remain on evacuation alert.

The firefighting efforts are expected to continue through the night.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Dean Stoltz