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Aircraft fill the sky to battle Skutz Falls wildfire

An airtanker flies over the Skutz Falls area fire on Tuesday evening. Significant provincial resources have been called out to battle the blaze estimated to be about 10 hectares.  - Kevin Rothbauer, Citizen
An airtanker flies over the Skutz Falls area fire on Tuesday evening. Significant provincial resources have been called out to battle the blaze estimated to be about 10 hectares.
— image credit: Kevin Rothbauer, Citizen

Firefighters from the BC Wildfire Service worked through the night to combat a Rank 4 (vigorous surface fire) blaze near the Lake Cowichan Highway at Skutz Falls turnoff.

The sky was still yellow and hazy when the sun rose Wednesday morning.

"It is still burning," Coastal Fire Centre Fire Information Officer Marg Drysdale said of the fire believed to be at least 10 hectares (25 acres) in size.

"It will continue to burn for a while," she said.

Lake Cowichan and Sahtlam Firefighters were called out about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Initial 9-1-1 calls had dispatchers and local crews wondering if there were actually two fires burning.

Investigation revealed the fire was just large enough to be seen from two different communities.

"The fire is burning on private forested land in slash (felled and bucked timber)," Drysdale said. "It is human caused and is under investigation."

Cowichan Valley volunteer firefighters quickly realized what they were dealing with, the call went out to the BC Wildfire Service.

Within an hour aircraft were circling overhead.

"We had a lot of resources on it yesterday," Drysdale said.

Resources on the fire include two initial attack crews of three firefighters each, airtankers — including the Martin Mars — two BC Wildfire Service response officers, 10 contract fire fighters, two medium helicopters, and three water tenders, Drysdale confirmed.

Three more helicopters and an excavator have also been called in and additional aircraft will be used as needed, according to the Coastal Fire Centre.

An industry representative and industry firefighters were also on scene both Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We've released the fire departments and we will be bringing in more of our crews and the landowner is also bringing in additional crews," Drysdale said.

A BC Wildfire Service unit crew — a group of 20 firefighters trained for ground work — was en route Wednesday morning.

"There have been no road closures, despite the rumor and speculation that's been going around," Drysdale said. "The fire is not threatening homes at this time."

No evacuation notices have been issued.

People are urged to use extreme caution in forested areas to ensure they do not start a wildfire. To report a wildfire or an open burning violation, call *5555 on a cellphone or 1 800 663-5555 toll-free.

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