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Wildfire near Port Alberni continues to grow, air tankers join aerial attack

BC Wildfire Service: Blaze is now 140-hectares and spreading at ‘moderate’ speed
A helicopter responding to the Cameron Lake wildfire takes off from the Coastal Fire Centre in Parksville on June 7. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Highway 4 remains closed as a wildfire near Cameron Lake continues to grow.

Fire crews worked overnight on the blaze, which is currently listed as 140 hectares and is out of control, according to Kimberly Kelly, fire information officer with Coastal Fire Centre.

The fire, which is spreading at a moderate rate, is being attacked by 26 firefighters and five helicopters, supported by air tankers.

Falling debris, hot weather conditions and the terrain are making it a difficult job for the firefighters.

“The fire is in steep terrain and the crew is being challenged by rolling debris and danger trees,” Kelly said. “It is progressing in an organized manner, occasional candling may be observed along the perimeter or along the fire. Candling is when you see a fire shoot directly up a tree.”

There are no evacuation alerts or orders in place currently, she added. Residents should check with their local governments for the most up to date information about evacuation orders.

The fire is approximately four kilometres away from Cathedral Grove, which is not threatened at this time.

READ MORE: Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District opens reception centre as Highway 4 remains closed

The cause is undetermined. Kelly said no lightning strikes were recorded on the Island on June 4, when the fire was initially reported.

A detour has been put in place. It will route traffic from Port Alberni through to Lake Cowichan via Bamfield using forest-service and privately owned industrial roads. The gravel detour route has narrow sections, sharp curves, single-lane bridges and challenging terrain. There is no cell service, gas stations or washroom facilities on the detour route.

RELATED: Government says no to Hwy. 4 connector

The Ministry of Transportation in a press release estimated the highway may be closed for an undetermined amount of time. “Damage to the road and instability of the slope above the highway means this closure is likely to last beyond the fire itself,” the release read.

With the detour in place, a reception centre on the Parksville side is not deemed necessary, according to the City of Parksville. The situation is dynamic and should things change, consideration will be given to other arrangements.

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) has also closed its reception centre on the Port Alberni side.

Kelly said drivers should check DriveBC before traveling and follow all advisories.

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