Heavy helicopter bucketing wildfire at Zeballos on August 17. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Ehattesaht First Nation members ‘in awe’ of wildfires near Zeballos, says councillor

Community members can’t recall wildfires ever being so close to the community

Tim John, a band councillor with Ehattesaht First Nation, says that locals are shocked by the extent of wildfires in the area, as firefighters continue to battle several blazes around Zeballos and across the North Island.

Wildfires aren’t completely without precedent in the remote coastal outpost of Zeballos, but members of the community aren’t used to fires so close to home, said John.

“Our members are kind of in awe, because we’ve never seen it this close to us,” he said.

He pointed to the sound of trees crashing down the slopes, and the way the flames flare up during the night above Zeballos, the village adjacent to the Ehattesaht reserve.

Years ago, there was at least one major wildfire in the Esperanza Inlet area, he said.

But the experience of wildfires is unsettling. It’s especially strange for children, he said.

“Growing up around here, all the kids knowing the safety of the place, and then seeing all of the panic… they’re in awe,” he said.

Two wildfires are burning about 10-15 km southwest of Zeballos, across the Espinosa Inlet. One of them, at Queens Cove, is near an abandoned summer village belonging to Ehattesaht First Nation.

It was one of the First Nation’s primary villages before members of the band moved to the Ehattesaht reserve beside Zeballos, said John. The band hopes firefighters will save the buildings, he said.

“There’s structures there that might be usable again,” John said. “We don’t want them burned to the ground.”

He added that the destruction of forests around the summer village would be a blow to elders in the community.

“It would be devastating to a lot of our older members to see that happen,” he said.

On Thursday morning, 27 firefighters were slated to work on that blaze, which was estimated at 195 hectares, according to Shayne McCool of the BC Wildfire Service.

READ MORE: As 534 wildfires burn, province extends state of emergency

READ MORE: Firefighters work to protect hydro lines near Zeballos as wildfires grow

Another nearby fire, at Espinosa Tower, stood at 800 hectares. No firefighters were working on that blaze on Thursday, but McCool said it was being monitored.

Another fire, this one near the Nuchatlaht First Nation’s Oclucje Reserve, stood at 89 hectares on Thursday, down from 123 on Tuesday.

That blaze, which prompted the closure of the band office due to health concerns caused by smoke, had no firefighting resources assigned on Thursday, but it was being monitored, McCool said.

At Pinder Creek, a fire near the access road for Zeballos remained at 260 hectares on Thursday, with 29 firefighters, three pieces of heavy equipment and three choppers assigned to the scene.

The fire directly outside of Zeballos remained at 168 hectares and was out of control on Thursday morning, and 13 firefighters were on the scene, including five working on structural protection.

McCool said that an estimated 57 wildfires were burning on the North Island on Thursday. The BC Wildfire Service was working on 13 of those directly, and resources were being assigned to others as needed, he said.

He added that 18 wildfires have been extinguished since lightning storms caused flare-ups across the North Island on August 11.

In Zeballos, the priorities were to protect homes and infrastructure on the fire’s north end, and power lines on the south end, according to a Facebook post by the Zeballos Emergency Program on Wednesday.

In recent days, a crew of firefighters rappelled into the forest near the fire’s south flank to build a helipad, allowing ground crews to set up a wet line, the post said.

Firefighters also expanded their wet line on the north flank of the fire, where six homes are currently under an evacuation order. They also set up a water bladder with a pump on a hillside.

The Zeballos Emergency Program urged members of the public to take care of their mental health during wildfires.

Tips included getting lots of sleep, being kind to yourself and others, and limiting exposure to media coverage that contains traumatic images.

The post also noted that mental health support is available through the BC Crisis Centre at 310-6789 (no area code required).

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kin Canada celebrates 100 years of supporting community

Campbell River also gets a Kinettes club again, looks to build membership

Campbell River City Council approves Voodoo Lounge liquor license transfer to Acklands Granger building (but with conditions)

Final decision on the transfer, however, rests with the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch

PHOTOS: Campbell River athletes return from BC Winter Games with 9 medals

Judo competitors earned 4 medals, while Karate athletes took home 5 medals

WATCH: Timberline brings puppets alive for musical production of Avenue Q

‘It’s the kind of musical you would go see if you’re not usually a fan of musicals,’ says actor

Campbell River Storm to face Nanaimo Buccaneers in round one of VIJHL playoffs

Game 1 is set for Campbell River’s Rod Brind’Amour Arena on Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read