More Highway 4 closures as wildfire east of Port Alberni grows

More Highway 4 closures as wildfire east of Port Alberni grows
Highway 4 Tuesday before the no-stopping order was put into effect

The Cameron Bluffs wildfire east of Port Alberni has grown to 109 hectares, which has resulted in Highway 4 closures to allow fire crews to respond.

Just after 2:15 p.m., the BC Wildfire Service upgraded the fire to be a wildfire of note, which means it is highly visible or poses a threat to public safety.

At 1:20 p.m., the service said the fire had grown to 109 hectares from the previous update of 25 hectares.

The organization says drivers should use caution and focus on the road when travelling through. It says there is no threat to the highway or the Cameron Lake resort areas.

B.C.’s Transportation Ministry issued a traffic advisory saying drivers should “expect lengthy delays” as no detour is currently available.

“Detour options are being assessed. Emergency signage and traffic-control personnel will alert travellers to the closure,” the ministry said.

“Information checkpoints for travellers are being set up at Lake Cowichan, in Coombs near the Port Alberni Visitors Centre and at Chatsworth Road to alert people to the closure.”

Boaters on the lake are asked to stay clear of response crews on scene. On Tuesday, a team of three water bombers and four helicopters were seen attacking the fire.

The highway to and from Port Alberni was closed in both directions Tuesday morning and reopened around 11:30 a.m., only to be fully closed again, according to DriveBC in a tweet at 3:30 p.m.

“There is a wildfire between Cathedral Grove/MacMillan Provincial Park and Koen Road for seven kilometres (Cathedral Grove). Road closed,” said Drive BC.

“Watch for traffic control. No stopping on the highway to view the Cameron Bluffs Fire.”

Updates will be posted to DriveBC’s website and Twitter page.

‘It makes me nervous,’ says local business owner

Port Alberni’s mayor says they’ve been preparing for such an event.

“But we know, of course, there is a vulnerability there if we are not able to move people safely in and out of our community, and I think today’s situation highlights that more than ever,” said Mayor Sharie Minions.

Minions is urging people not to travel out of community unless necessary.

“But we do have options to bring people back into the community if they’re away or need to get out for real reasons then there are ways to get them in and out of the community, of course,” she said.

For those at Cameron Lake Resort, what was initially a show to watch has now become a worry.

“It makes me nervous even though we’ve been told we’re okay right now, but I’ve never seen anything like it. We’ve been here since 1980,” said Esther Verheyen, the resort’s owner and manager.

Nanaimo resident Megan Reeves has been staying at the resort, but with the fire’s advance, she’s now going to leave earlier than planned.

“It started to come over the ridge, so it’s starting to look like I’d rather pack up and leave while I’m not stressed out and under a panic and maybe before there is an evacuation order,” said Reeves.

On Tuesday morning, Port Alberni RCMP confirmed to CHEK News that the highway is closed in both directions at Cameron Lake, where the Cameron Bluffs fire was first discovered on June 3.

The BC Wildfire Service says the fire is in steep terrain, and a helicopter is bucketing to support the two initial attack crews assigned to the fire.

READ ALSO: Two active wildfires on Vancouver Island, one declared out

According to the service, a wildfire is deemed out of control when it continues to spread and is not responding to suppression efforts.

“Fire is highly visible from Highway 4 at Cameron Lake. Boaters on Cameron Lake should stay clear of helicopter bucketing dip sites,” it said. “Fire is under investigation but suspected to be human caused.”


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