This evening the BC Wildfire Service changed the status of the Copper Canyon wildfire from ‘out of control’ to ‘behind held’, meaning nearby residence can breathe a sigh of relief. CHEK News received the following correspondence from the Cowichan Valley Regional District:
“‘Being held’ status indicates that with the resources currently committed to the fire, sufficient suppression action has been taken and the fire is not likely to spread beyond existing or predetermined boundaries, under the prevailing and forecasted conditions,” said Kris Schumacher, manager of communications and engagement.
Earlier Monday, CHEK News reporter Skye Ryan was on scene as firefighters battled the then growing blaze. The following is her report prior to the fire’s changed status.
Tara Bardal tried to remain calm as she watched firefighting helicopters pass over her horses.
The Copper Canyon wildfire — previously known as Holyoak Creek wildfire but renamed — has hit very close to home, burning just three kilometres away from her North Cowichan farm.
“They’re my life. You can’t replace them,” Bardal says about her beloved horses.
For the last three days, Bardal has watched BC Wildfire Service helicopters bucketing water overhead as ash and smoke from the 32-hectare (80 acre) wildfire on Mount Prevost fill her farmyard.
“I think you get into survival mode and you just think okay, we gotta get you guys out of here and safe,” said Bardal.
“It’s kind of scary. I just have to worry but I know she’s going to keep us safe,” said Bardal’s 12-year-old son Brandon Hui.
The close proximity to her farm has led Bardal to pack her horse trailer and bags in case of evacuation
“You just don’t know, I mean you don’t want to wake up to somebody knocking on your door and telling you, you have fifteen or twenty minutes to leave. That’s not what you want but how do you not think that that’s a reality,” said Bardal.
The Bardal’s farm is one of many farms within view of the wildfire.
Nearby dairy farmer Liz Compton said the valley woke to an eerie scene of heavy smoke on Sunday morning after strong winds howled through Copper Canyon Saturday night.
“It was filling up in here you could feel it when you breathed,” said Compton, adding. “It was unnerving for sure.”
Fortunately, according to BC Wildfire, their crew’s aggressive air support attack, trench building, and 7 para-attack firefighters, who parachuted down to fight the blaze over the weekend, had kept it at 32 hectares Sunday.
“Last night, it did experience winds up to 40 kilometres an hour and has seen no rain in the last 24 hours but the crews were able to hold it at 32 hectares. So, there has been no growth on this fire since Friday,” Dorthe Jakobsen of the Coastal Fire Centre told CHEK News on Sunday afternoon.
However, despite intense firefighting efforts, the wildfire isn’t completely under control.
“They don’t have complete control on the perimeter of the fire as yet,” said Jakobsen.
One property on Mount Prevost Road is already under an evacuation order, so others planned to stay close to home and ready. Jakobsen said residents in the North Cowichan and Duncan area should keep a close monitor on the Cowichan Valley Regional District website for evacuation orders or alerts over the coming days while crews battle the blaze.
“They should then be prepared to leave the area [in the event of an evacuation alert or order],” said Jakobsen.
Hot dry weather, which could make it even harder for firefighting crews, is expected in the Cowichan Valley for the coming week. Jakobsen said crews are doing everything they can to contain the fire, particularly as more hot dry weather is in the forecast.
“We have been taking aggressive action to contain this fire,” said Jakobsen. “We have lots of resources working on it.”
With files from Nicholas Pescod