‘Way too close for my comfort’: Forest fire puts Port Alberni residents on edge

'Way too close for my comfort': Forest fire puts Port Alberni residents on edge

Large plumes of smoke drew onlookers to Port Alberni’s waterfront Thursday night, worried about a forest fire they could see burning just across the Alberni Inlet.

“That’s way too close for my comfort zone because it’s like right there,” said Alberni resident Niklaus Treleaven.

The Arbutus Mountain fire was discovered at 6:47 p.m. Thursday and was visible from across Port Alberni, so the quick response of air tankers from the BC Wildfire Service brought relief to those watching.

“I saw it when I was driving back to the little motel I was staying at and came to check it out, just to make sure they’re getting on it. Yeah, there were lots of water bombers going over it, helicopters, so, it’s good to see,” said Matt Mackie, who watched the firefight from Port Alberni’s waterfront.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, catching the fire early helped crews keep it to 0.3 hectare in size.

“Tankers dropped two rounds of retardant on this fire last night, which really got down into the fire and allowed crews to get in and do some very good work last night,” said Jade Richardson, a fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre.

By Friday afternoon, officials had the fire listed as under control. But the fact it is suspected to be human-caused concerned residents.

“In this weather, like we are on high alert right now. Everyone in the valley knows this, and I have no tolerance for that, that’s ridiculous,” said Treleaven.

“And people don’t ever think there’s going to be a fire in their community until there’s a fire in their community,” said Victoria Nookemus, who watched the fire from Port Alberni’s waterfront.

With even drier conditions in the weather forecast, people are being urged to be extra careful headed into the backcountry this long weekend.

“The Island in particular has been in drought conditions since late 2022 and now here we are August 2023 heading into this long weekend,” said Richardson. “We’re going to be seeing hotter temperatures this weekend, drier trends and perhaps the risk of lightning as well, so there’s a lot going on in terms of the Vancouver Island landscape.”

RELATED: Wildfire near Sooke now under control: BC Wildfire Service

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