No change to Cowichan Valley, Port Alberni wildfires despite strong winds

No change to Cowichan Valley, Port Alberni wildfires despite strong winds
(Port Alberni Fire Department)
Crews battle a wildfire south of Port Alberni overnight Sunday.

Two new wildfires that were burning out of control on Vancouver Island are now classified as “being held,” despite a Monday evening windstorm that was powerful enough to topple trees.

The Coastal Fire Centre said the Riverbottom Road fire near Duncan remained approximately 4.1 hectares in size Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile up-Island, two wildfires burning near Port Alberni, about a kilometre southwest of Cox Lake, also held steady in size.

The bigger of the two fires (3.45 hectares) was considered held, meaning it wasn’t expected to grow beyond its perimeter. The smaller blaze, at 0.30 hectares, is under control.

“Things have gone very well,” said Fire Information Officer Julia Carinci. “We did have some winds for sure yesterday, but it looks like it hasn’t affected our operations on Vancouver Island at this time.”

All three fires are suspected to have been sparked by human activity.

Vernon Olson lives within 275 metres of the smaller Port Alberni fire and was first alerted by a phone call he received while on the ferry Sunday evening returning from the Mainland.

He was shocked by what he saw when he arrived home two hours later.

“I got to Anderson Road and said that’s exactly my place where that is, I was kind of torn. I can’t even describe it, it’s like shock,” Olson told CHEK News Tuesday.

The two fires are in close proximity to each other and fill the hillside with flames and the sky with an orange glow.

“And then it was, okay, now we’ve got to make a plan…so I put a hose at the front and rear of the house and one at my trailer,” he added.

Firefighters from Port Alberni, Cherry Creek, Sproat Lake and the BC Wildfire Service fought the fire overnight Sunday before two helicopters spent five hours dropping water on the flames Monday morning.

“You definitely realize once you are out there how dry the conditions are,” said Port Alberni Fire Chief Mike Owens. “The larger fire, the east fire kind of grew exponentially ahead of our arrival.”

Tom Howard, a Sahtlam resident who lives near the Cowichan Valley fire, told CHEK News on Sunday that he believes he heard fireworks coming from the area where it ignited early Saturday morning.

“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.

The Coastal Fire Centre said it would not release any information on a specific cause until its investigation into the fire had wrapped up once it was extinguished.

Caranci said it’s unusual to have such dry, warm weather at this time of the year, especially when compared to recent years.

Usually by this time, the region has seen a “season-ending” rainfall that puts a damper on remaining active fires, though she said they can keep burning until very late in the year.

“It’s just a very different year, but it’s not unusual to continue to have fires on our map into October and November, sometimes until the snow flies.”

Environment Canada is forecasting another week of above-seasonal temperatures for most of Vancouver Island, including temperatures hovering around 20 degrees in Victoria and up to 26 degrees in Port Alberni.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!