UPDATE: Nanaimo River Rd. fire holds at 400-acres

By Dominic Abassi
August 7, 2018 - 10:58am Updated: August 8, 2018 - 5:53pm

Flames flash near Nanaimo River Rd.Submitted

UPDATE (5:30 p.m., Aug. 8): The latest update can be found here.



EARLIER (9:30 a.m., Aug. 8)

NANAIMO — The large wildfire burning out of control along Nanaimo River Rd. held overnight at nearly 400-acres (160 ha) and remains 10 per cent contained, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

The Coastal Fire Centre's Donna MacPherson told NanaimoNewsNOW 55 firefighters, six helicopters and heavy equipment remain assigned to the fire. She said winds assisted firefighters Wednesday.

“We're not getting a lot of wind today pushing it in any direction, the concern that we're having is during that weather change that's coming up (heading into the weekend).”

MacPherson said anticipated cooling temperatures by late Friday will likely include increased winds, only spotty rainfall and potentially lightning.

She stressed the importance of people being smart and doing their part to prevent fires with conditions so volatile. The Nanaimo River fire and a pair in the Alberni Valley are all suspected to be person-caused. 

Meanwhile, the Regional District of Nanaimo's evacuation alert for 77 homes east of the fire remains in effect and unchanged. The RDN reiterated Nanaimo River Rd. remains closed at South Forks Rd. and reminded people to stay away from the area.

The fire, just south of Nanaimo Lakes on the north side of the Nanaimo River, quickly exploded from five-acres on Sunday to roughly 260-acres (107 ha) by Monday morning.



EARLIER (5:30 p.m., Aug. 7) 

The Nanaimo River Rd. fire continued to grow Tuesday, but firefighters did gain some containment on the blaze and officials are pleased with the direction it's moving.

The BC Wildfire Service's Natasha Broznitsky said the fire jumped about 75-acres Tuesday, nearing 400-acres (160-hectares) in size. However, crews on scene were able to gain 10 per cent containment, the first progress in the battle against the fire which began at just five-acres on Sunday.

Broznitsky said Tuesday's growth was mainly north towards Barsby Lake and west towards Nanaimo Lakes, with "minimal growth" east.

"Given the fact the fire is out of control, the addition of around 30 hectares in size is not surprising and we're very happy it's been in the direction it was. One of the priority areas on this fire continues to be that eastern flank to keep it away from any structures."

Broznitsky described the situation as still very dynamic, noting the direction and conditions are very hard to predict from day-to-day.

"Given we only have 10 per cent containment, should something occur like a weather event with wind, the direction of this fire could change."

She said while there was no substantial wind in the forecast, extreme heat through Thursday was a concern. Crews will remain working the fire overnight and the number of personnel needed will be reassessed on Wednesday morning.

In its latest update, the Regional District of Nanaimo said the evacuation alert for 77 homes east of the fire remained unchanged and residents should be prepared to leave at a moment's notice.

The RDN also urged people to stay clear of the area, including access by backcountry and logging roads. Nanaimo River Rd. remained closed at South Forks Rd.

The BCWS expected the next update on the fire would come sometime late Wednesday morning, barring any substantial changes in conditions overnight.




EARLIER (11 a.m., Aug. 7)

The Nanaimo River Rd. fire remains out of control but fire officials believe it is moving in a "favourable" direction.

The Coastal Fire Centre's Natasha Broznitsky said the most recent estimate from Tuesday morning pegged the size of the uncontained fire at 323-acres (131ha), which is the same size it was listed at late Monday. However, she said it's too soon to declare the fire didn't grow overnight as another size estimate later Tuesday could find growth in areas currently covered by smoke.

Despite back-to-back days of significant growth and a local state of emergency being declared, there is a glimmer of good news.

Broznitsky said the blaze is moving west-northwest, away from residences.

"It's safe to say generally the fire moving that way is more favourable than it moving east. Certainly the majority of the areas we don't want the fire to move into are to the east."

An additional 20 personnel and one helicopter were added to the fire this morning, bringing the total to more than 50 firefighers on scene. Broznitsky said air tanker support may be used Tuesday for a second straight day.

Nanaimo River Rd. remains closed at the South Forks Rd. junction and people are urged to avoid the area.

Meanwhile, Regional District of Nanaimo board chair Bill Veenhof said it's believed everybody obeyed evacuation orders issued late Monday for a large area west of the fire. There were no residences in that area but there were believed to be locations with people camping in the bush, particularly near Barsby Lake.

Veenhof said there is no change for the status of the 77 homes in the evacuation alert zone and no new alerts or orders are expected. He urged people living the in the alert zone to closely follow local media and the RDN's website and social media accounts for the latest information.

"If there's a wider evacuation it's my expectation is as much as possible there would be people knocking on the doors of the homes that need to be evacuated just to make sure they know.”

If people are forced to evacuate the homes to the east of the fire Veenhof said an emergency reception centre would be set up in the South Wellington area.

— with files from Ian Holmes


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On Twitter: @domabassi

RDN issues evacuation order, alert for area near Nanaimo River Rd. wildfire