Difficult Lizard Lake fire still going strong

The Lizard Lake wildfire continues to ravage western Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew.

The Pacific Marine Circle Route and popular area recreation spots remain closed as the Lizard Lake wildfire continues to ravage western Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew.

Coastal Fire Centre officials are calling it a “very active” fire and believe the blaze covers an area of about 250 hectares. On Monday the blaze was just 20 per cent contained.

“There has been some movement,” fire information officer Ellie Dupont said. “We’ve won some areas and lost some areas so we’re going to be remapping it probably within the next couple of days.”

Smoke has played an issue in trying to accurately estimate the fire’s actual size. Whatever it is, it’s big and has been a serious challenge for crews to extinguish.

Dupont said a command centre has been set up at the Mesachie Lake research centre and that people are constantly coming and going. She did note that a steady stream of manpower — more than 100 on the ground — is ever-present and is working with eight helicopters overhead and at least two pieces of heavy equipment.

“Two excavators are digging deep into the floor of the forest around the fire to contain it,” Dupont said. “We have four water tenders and it’s not enough. Because the topography is so steep, they’re having to set up in many different areas so the crews can wet down the perimeter and hit hot spots.”

Many bladders, or giant pools, have been set up and filled for crews and helicopters to draw water from in harder-to-reach areas.

“It’s very, very difficult to fight a fire in that kind of terrain because everything takes so much longer and it’s very exhausting,” she said, noting firefighters are only permitted to work 12 days in a row before having to leave the area for a break.

The fire is located on steep slopes with slash and loose debris and has travelled through areas of standing trees, cut blocks, newer growth, older growth and beyond.

“It’s so much wood and there’s piles of it,” Dupont explained.

“There’s not just trees standing, there’s piles of deep wood and humus under that that will continue to burn and that’s been an issue with the smoke. It just doesn’t want to go out.”

Helicopters are the best air attack option, she said.

“We need to be very specific about where we drop the water. Planes wouldn’t even be considered on this type of topography.”

The fire was reported around midnight Aug. 11. The following day it was estimated to be about five hectares in size but within 24 hours it had grown to 150 hectares. It grew another 100 hectares over the weekend.

Believed to be human caused, a BC Wildfire investigation specialist has been working to identify the origin and cause of the fire.

Visit www.drivebc.ca for road closure information and www.sitesandtrails.ca for recreation site closures.

The BC Wildfire Service relies on citizens to alert them to any column of smoke they witness.

Calls can be made on mobile phones to *5555 or by calling 1-800-663-5555 on any phone.