The wildfire near Lizard Lake grew this past weekend to 250 hectares (617.8 acres), up from 150 hectares (370.7 acres) last Thursday (August 13) and 50 hectares, as it was reported on August 12. Though the fire has grown fivefold, the smoky skies advisory issued for the Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley, including Lake Cowichan, by Island Health and the Ministry of Environment on August 13 has since been lifted.
First reported on the night of August 11, the blaze began 1 km from Lizard Lake, 27 km south by southwest of Cowichan Lake. Over the weekend, the Coastal Fire Centre reported the fire to be 20 per cent contained, which has not changed as of this time (August 18). The fire is believed to be human-caused.
The original crew of 50 firefighters, two officers, five helicopters and heavy machinery has since been increased to a force of 110 personnel, including 50 firefighters, a strike team of 40 working on hot spots, 20 crew leaders working on logistics, mapping and planning, as well as nine helicopters, two excavators and four water tenders.
Having built a containment line around the fire, the crew is currently working on enforcing it as well as building an access road on the nearby ridge.
The Ministry of Transportation was on site on Monday (August 17) checking the stability of the Pacific Marine Road, which was closed to traffic shortly after the fire was reported. The ministry will be releasing information on a potential reopening of the road next week.
Coastal Fire Centre information officer Ellie Dupont, who is on site this week, explained that helicopters are the “tool of choice” for fighting the Lizard Lake fire due to the size and terrain, as the steep slope limits access of other resources.
Despite the Pacific Marine Road closure, evacuation is not a concern, as there are no structures close to the location of the fire.
“People in Lake Cowichan are concerned, though the fire is actually closer to Port Renfrew than it is to Lake Cowichan,” Dupont said.
The smoky skies advisory, which has since been lifted, was the result of “the venting and the amount of fuel burning at the time,” according to Dupont. Due to the nature of the fire, Island Health and the Ministry of Environment have warned that the smoky conditions could return as early as this week, depending on fire behaviour and meteorological conditions.
In the meantime, crews are continuing to monitor and put out hot spots, though the wind and heat have created what Dupont referred to as a “dynamic” situation, with fires reigniting after being put out.
“With the heat and wind, there are flames popping up here and there,” she said. “Those fires are going to pop back up again after being put out. It’s not like flicking a switch, this is a process that’s going to take time.”
According to the Coastal Fire Centre, heavy winds, up to 40 km an hour, fed the flames and contibuted to its initial growth.
For more information and updates on the Pacific Marine Road closure, visit www.DriveBC.ca. For updates on the air quality, as well as for tips on how to reduce personal health risk during a smoky skies advisory, visit www.BCairquality.ca.