An area resident snapped this image of a wildfire burning just outside of Zeballos, a tiny logging village on the west coast of the Island.

Firefighters “beat down” flames outside of Zeballos

Tiny coastal village on edge following evacuation alert

The efforts of firefighters are paying off in Zeballos, according to a resident who lives near the site of the fire.

Ernie Smith, who posted footage of smoke billowing from the hillside near his home on Thursday, said that firefighters made progress yesterday on the lightning-caused wildfire. But it’s still burning in the nearby hills.

“The ones behind the houses, they got it beat down quite a bit,” said Smith.

Footage posted by Smith on Friday morning showing less wildfire activity, though smoke continued to rise near houses.

Firefighters had travelled from Port McNeill to fight the wildfire, he said. The BC Wildfire Service and a forestry company were also fighting the flare-up, said Smith, who took part in the effort with the local volunteer firefighting corps.

This comes after residents expressed concern that the BC Wildfire Service wasn’t doing enough to protect the tiny logging village. Zeballos issued an evacuation alert on Thursday and declared a local state of emergency.

READ MORE: East Zeballos placed under evacuation alert as “out of control” wildfire approaches homes

On its Facebook page, the BC Wildfire Service issued a notice on Thursday saying the fire near Zeballos was “proving challenging.”

“The fire is burning in very steep ground with extremely difficult and unsafe access for firefighting and our priority continues to focus on the safety of first responders and the public,” the statement said.

It continued: “Due to winds and high temperatures, the fire is slowly backing down the steep slope.”

The statement noted that the fire was “highly visible” to local residents, adding that their concerns were understandable.

However, it said the fire was “not an immediate threat” and noted that firefighters were “working hard to keep the community safe.”

The flare-up had grown to an estimated 29 hectares by Thursday evening, according to the BC Wildfire Service’s website.

The evacuation alert issued on Thursday applies to the area east of the Zeballos River, a village with a population of 107. On the western side of the river is the Ehattesaht First Nation reserve, which has a population of about 100-150.

READ MORE: B.C. declares state of emergency as wildfires rage

Ehattesaht is further from the wildfire than Zeballos, and no evacuation alert was in effect for the reserve as of Friday morning, said Ashley John, a councillor for Ehattesaht First Nation.

But she said it remains a concern, adding that the band is working closely with the Zeballos emergency program.

Meanwhile, a wildfire at Pinder Creek threatened the only road into the remote Zeballos area.

Located about 15 km from the Island Highway, that fire had grown to an estimated 105 hectares by Thursday evening, according to the website of the BC Wildfire Service. The Pinder Creek fire was listed as 10 per cent contained.

More to come.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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