Fire season has arrived early in the Alberni Valley, Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley said.
The Provincial Wildfire Branch is banning all open burning in all areas of the Coastal Fire Centre region, a news release said.
“We’ve been talking to the Provincial Wildfire Branch and they say they are seeing conditions now that we don’t normally see until August,” Pley told city councillors on July 14. “Fire fuels are really dry right now so they’re gearing up for fire season.”
The provincial fire hazard rating is listed as high and not extremely high.
The coastal region could be a hot spot in the province in the weeks to come. A July 11 notice on the wildfire management branch webpage reports that coastal forests are drying quickly. Every hot and dry day is resulting in fuels that are easier to ignite.
The city has its own outdoor burning bylaw that supersedes provincial wildfire outdoor burning regulations, Pley said.
But the city follows the province’s lead when it comes to burn bans. “We do that to maintain consistency and because of the fact that they are the experts on outdoor fires,” Pley said.
Pley said one issue being planned for now is if the province pulls its firefighting assets from the Alberni Valley to assist with other fires.
“This happens in some years and when it does government looks at municipal fire service resources,” he said. “We could be called into action to respond to a wildfire or support fighting one.”
Train to run despite heat
The Island Corridor Foundation has closed the Port Alberni Sub due to the high fire hazard, but that doesn’t include the track between the Port Alberni Train Station and McLean Mill, mill manager Neil Malbon said.
“We’re doing fire patrols and hauling a water car behind the train,” Malbon said. Crews follow the train in a high-railer or speeder looking for sparks that might have ignited dry brush beside the tracks.
The closure begins past Smith Road up to Loon Lake and beyond, he said. “We have a lot of guys doing work on the rails and (the ban) applies to them. They don’t have the same firefighting tools as the train.”
With files from Susan Quinn