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Firefighters work to protect hydro lines near Zeballos as wildfires grow

Dozens of wildfires burning on North Island
Fires continue to burn near Zeballos and nearby First Nations reserves. This photo, taken near Pinder Creek on August 17, shows wildfires near the logging road that leads to the remote area. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Wildfires near Zeballos and its access road continue to burn, as the provincial wildfire authority fights dozens of blazes across the North Island.

Shayne McCool, a fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, said on Tuesday that crews were working to protect hydro lines that power Zeballos and nearby communities.

“We’ve been focusing on protecting those power lines,” McCool said.

A heavy chopper has been bucketing along the hydro corridor and crews have been creating a “fuel free” zone around the lines, said McCool. He added that firefighters recently dumped fire retardant on the lines.

“There’s good protection on that area,” he said.

Steep terrain has made the blaze near Zeballos hard to reach for firefighters, but crews were preparing for a direct attack on the south flank, which is less mountainous, said McCool.

“It has burned in an area that is a little more accessible,” McCool said.

An evacuation alert was still in effect for the remote village of Zeballos, and six homes were under an evacuation order.

The fire remained out of control, but it was burning away from the community as firefighters maintained a wet line near the town to protect its structures.

The fire had reached an estimated 168 hectares by Tuesday morning, compared to 94 hectares last Thursday.

Resources slated for Zeballos on Tuesday included 11 firefighters, five of them working on structural protection, along with a chopper and one piece of heavy equipment, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Other choppers may service Zeballos and various wildfires as needed, McCool said.

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At Pinder Creek, a wildfire continued to burn near the access road for Zeballos and nearby First Nations reserves. The wildfire had reached 260 hectares by Tuesday morning, compared to 220 hectares on Thursday last week.

That lightning-caused fire was 20 per cent contained by Tuesday morning, as crews worked to hold the south end of the blaze.

Plans on Tuesday called for 32 firefighters, one dedicated chopper and three pieces of heavy equipment. Crews continued to close the road for periods of about 15 minutes while fallers worked nearby.

Other fires in the area included one at Espinosa Creek, near the Nuchatlaht First Nation’s Oclucje reserve, which had grown to 123 hectares by Tuesday morning, compared to 50 hectares last Thursday.

Not far from that location was the Espinosa Tower fire, which was estimated at 800 hectares. Another fire, at Queens Cove, stood at 195 hectares by Tuesday morning.

Both are located west of Espinosa Inlet, within about 10-15 km of Zeballos and the neighbouring Ehattesaht First Nation reserve.

The Queens Cove fire was burning near two structures at a summer village belonging to Ehattesaht First Nation, McCool said. Nobody was currently residing at those locations and the wildfires didn’t pose an immediate threat, he said.

“To my knowledge, those structures aren’t overly close to the fire at this time, but they are something we’re certainly keeping an eye on,” he said.

There were at least 64 wildfires burning on the North Island by Tuesday, but that number is bound to fluctuate, said McCool.

“We’re finding fires that could be spot fires or could be new fires,” he said. “It’s a very fluid situation.”


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