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Cameron Bluffs fire near Port Alberni grows to 208 hectares; Highway 4 remains closed

B.C. Premier Eby faces criticism over not opening Horne Lake route as fire cuts off communities
Two workers walk along Highway 4 around Angel Rock conducting a geotechnical assessment prior to June 8, 2023. The Cameron Bluffs wildfire has closed Highway 4 between Parksville and Port Alberni. (B.C. MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION PHOTO)

The Cameron Bluffs fire has grown to 208 hectares despite cooler temperatures and a bit of rain early Friday, June 9, 2023.

“Early this morning we received a very small trace amount of rain on the fire,” incident commander Bryce Moreira from the BC Wildfire Service said in a Coastal Fire Centre briefing. While the rainfall wasn’t significant it was enough to decrease fire activity, “Which is good news for crews,” he said.

The BCWS has four helicopters working the fire, eight pieces of heavy equipment, two unit crews and several initial attack crews totalling 60 personnel. An additional 20-person crew will be tasked to the Cameron Bluffs fire later today, and air tankers will be deployed as available.

Heavy equipment is situated on the west flank of the fire closest to Cathedral Grove. Helicopters are working the east flank closest to homes around Cameron Lake and air tankers have been tasked to that area as well, Moreira said.

Ground crews last night conducted a hand ignition on the south flank to give them an “anchor point” to continue working that side from the ground. More ground crews are working the north side of the fire.

The downturn in the weather means crews have been able to work directly on the fire, Moreira said.

“We haven’t seen any noticeable growth to the east or west,” he said. The fire is still growing to the south, away from the highway.

“We’ll still be working this fire for the next several days.”

Highway 4 remains closed between Parksville and Port Alberni due to the fire.

The weather is expected to turn hot and dry in the region next week. The fire danger throughout most of the Island is moderate to high, with some areas in south Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland at extreme. There is a complete fire ban in the Coastal Fire Centre except for Haida Gwaii. This includes campfires, open fires, fireworks, sky lanterns, burn barrels, binary exploding targets, chimeneas or torches. The City of Port Alberni has also enacted a complete fire ban.

Premier David Eby was questioned by media during another event on whether the province is putting enough of a priority on the Cameron Bluffs fire. “The priority of the province is to get that fire fought and to address the crisis this represents for your community,” he said.

“Food trucks and fuel trucks are getting through on the detour right now. So there’s no need to buy more than what you need: essential supplies are getting through.”

He said decisions on how fires are fought are left up to the experts and are based “on available resources, fires in other communities, safety for firefighters; and we expect and trust the experts to make those decisions.”

Kimberly Kelly from the Coastal Fire Centre said the fire is “adequately resourced…and staffing is appropriate for the fire behaviour.” It is a priority for the province because of its proximity to Highway 4 and Cathedral Grove.

There is no danger to life, structures or critical infrastructure on the Cameron Bluffs fire, she added. She deferred questions on how long the highway would be closed to the Ministry of Transportation. A road advisory from Friday morning stated the highway will likely be closed “beyond the fire itself” due to damage to the road and instability of the slope above the highway due to the wildfire.

Road alerts can be found online at under the Emergency Events link.

The alternate route to the east side of the Island, via Bamfield and Lake Cowichan, will be closed on Friday between 1–9 p.m. while crews retrieve a semi-truck that rolled down an embankment at Francis Lake.

The government and Mosaic Forest Management are taking heavy criticism from residents in the Alberni Valley for not opening up logging roads to the northeast, through Horne Lake. The route through Mosaic’s property has long been sought as a second entrance to the Alberni Valley, which the provincial government officially rejected in 2016—opting instead to make improvements to Highway 4.

The transportation ministry has said the Horne Lake route will be used for emergency vehicles only, and some BC Wildfire Service crew.

Eby said he’s been told the Horne Lake route is “steeper and narrower than the current route and we’ve already seen safety issues with a truck going off the road and down an embankment. I’m advised it’s not a viable route.”

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Debris from the Cameron Bluffs wildfire can be seen on the side of the Highway 4 in this B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure photo taken prior to June 9, 2023. (B.C. MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION PHOTO)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I have been the Alberni Valley News editor since August 2006.
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