Smoke spews out of the Wolf River Valley in Strathcona Park. The fire is being allowed to run its course as a natural factor.

Fire centre keeps eye on Wolf River

Grows to between 150 and 200 hectares in size due to strong winds last weekend

A forest fire burning in Strathcona Park is growing.

The Wolf River fire, started by a lightning strike on Aug. 18, has grown to between 150 and 200 hectares in size due to strong winds last weekend. When it first ignited, the fire occupied just two hectares.

Despite the growth, the Coastal Fire Centre says the fire will not be put out, but rather allowed to continue burning.

“This is called a modified response fire,” said Marg Drysdale, fire information officer at the Coastal Fire Centre. “BC Parks is comfortable with allowing it to continue burning to clean out the debris and help the things that need heat to grow. It’s good for growth in the forest.”

It’s also not posing any real danger.

“There is no threat to values, there is no threat to infrastructure, and there is no threat to humans,” Drysdale said. “It’s actually an environmentally-sound thing to allow the fire to continue.”

The fire is burning on a “really steep cliff face” on a mountainside to the west of Buttle Lake. Smoke from the fire can be seen billowing out of the mountains opposite the road to the Nyrstar (Myra Falls) mine.

Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday the smoke could also be seen in Campbell River due to warmer temperatures late last week.

Drysdale said smoke could be smelt from as far away as Parksville.

The Wolf River blaze is currently the largest wildfire on Vancouver Island and Drysdale said it’s expected to grow even further.

“BC Parks and Wildfire Management came up with a plan for the fire and have set trigger points,” she said. “If it reaches those trigger points, they will reassess and they may expand the trigger points or they may go in and maybe cool certain areas.”

To contain the fire, air tankers have laid fire retardant lines along the base of the fire to slow the blaze from moving further down the mountain and to tie into a natural land slide area south of the fire. Helicopters have periodically flown up to the fire to drop water on it in order to keep it cool.

Drysdale said the recent rainfall has helped. The fire was burning at a Rank Three – meaning it was quite aggressive and in some areas showing  open flame. But rain on Sunday and Monday dampened areas of the fire and lowered the rank. Drysdale said the fire does not pose a threat to Strathcona Park users or motorists using Highway 28.