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Helicopter response needed for Elk Falls fire

Fire response good example of collaboration

The change of seasons from summer to fall doesn’t mean that fire season is over.

A fire near the Elk Falls Mill just north of Campbell River on Tuesday showed that. Initial calls came in at around 1:30 p.m. to the Campbell River Fire Department, who called for mutual aid from the B.C. Wildfire Service.

“They requested our support and we’re happy to do that,” said fire information officer Mike McCulley. “It’s actually a really good example of how collaboration between the B.C. Wildfire Service and local fire department works. They asked for our support, and we were able to send one initial attack crew, as well as an officer out to the scene. We quickly decided that helicopter bucketing support was in order.”

“All told we had about 20 CRFD staff, two from Oyster River with their water tender, four members from Coastal Fire, two members from B.C. Ambulance, two helicopters and one RCMP member,” said Campbell River acting deputy fire chief Seth Hildebrand. “It was about 15 acres in size by the time it finally stopped.”

Two helicopters attended the fire, dropping buckets on the blaze. By 6 p.m., the crews were able to classify the fire as “under control,” McCulley said.

“The suppression efforts we took were enough to keep the fire from growing any further yesterday. It was a really good example of a collaborative effort, and it was another example of how important initial attack response is on some of these fires,” McCulley said. “If we can get at them quickly and keep them contained and under control, that’s going to be our best bet.”

“There’s a large water tank there that feeds the old mill site at Discovery Park… there were no actual structures that were at risk with this fire, which was really fortunate,” Hildebrand said. “We did have highway 19 close by, but the helicopters made a real effective stop as it was heading toward the east there.

“It was a very good call. They were very helpful.”

Despite the fact that fall equinox has come and gone, McCulley says that there is more hot and dry conditions to come.

“We’re really not, unfortunately, expecting any amount of precipitation that would really help us with the drought conditions and cause a season-ending rain event. That’s not on the radar at all,” he said. “It’s going to warm up again next week and get a little bit drier. It’s really important that people continue to report wildfires when they see them, continue to be very cautious out there.”

“There are still multiple active wildfires on Vancouver Island, and we’re expecting that to continue for at least a few more weeks,” he said. “If the public reports them quickly, we can get on them quickly and we have a much greater chance of keeping them small and reducing the impact of the fire.”

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