Highway 4 remains closed due to the Cameron Bluffs wildfire, leaving people stuck and frustrated on both sides of the roadblock.
Tanya Auger normally commutes from the Port Alberni area to Parksville, where she works in childcare, but has been stuck on the Parksville side for more than a week.
“I’m not the only one. There’s a lot of people in this situation on this side and on the Port side,” she said. “It’s an act of God, it’s a natural disaster, I get it. But, I mean when people are stuck, there’s no resources.”
Auger said she is frustrated both with the lack of a reception centre and that the only detour is lengthy and difficult to traverse for many vehicles.
The detour is being prioritized for “essential” travel only to ensure the movement of goods like food and fuel, according to the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Auger is a single parent and said she is fortunate that there are grandparents who can look after her child while she is stuck in Parksville.
“Some people are sleeping in their cars,” she said. “Luckily for me, I am staying, my employer is letting me stay there. But I don’t want to overstay my welcome either.”
By next weekend (June 24-25), the ministry hopes to have Highway 4 re-opened to single-lane alternating traffic. A full re-opening of the highway is tentatively planned for mid-July.
Janelle Staite, deputy director for the ministry, said that a 1.5-kilometre section of highway has been impacted by the fire. Although the pavement condition remains “intact,” Staite says some pieces of roadside barrier have been dislodged and require repairs.
Before highway crews can start work on repairing the roadway, BC Wildfire Service will undertake an assessment of the slope. The fire caused “significant” impact to the stability of trees above the highway, so there will be controlled cuts of trees to eliminate these hazards. Some rock containment netting will be installed along the highway to catch any material coming down the slope.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Cameron Bluffs wildfire was being held at 229-hectares, according to BC Wildfire Service, down from 254-hectares earlier this week. It is no longer considered out of control, which means it is “not likely to spread beyond predetermined boundaries under current conditions.”
—With a file from Elena Rardon