A massive human-caused wildfire between Mesachie Lake and Port Renfrew has the Cowichan Valley once again covered in a smoky haze, with the Cowichan Lake area particularly hard-hit.
The fire near Lizard Lake was first spotted early Wednesday morning, and despite the efforts of firefighters, grew quickly throughout the day and into Thursday. Even the BC Wildfire Service was unsure of how large it was as of Thursday morning.
“We’re calling it 150 hectares in size, but we’re guessing it’s considerably larger,” Coastal Fire Centre fire information officer Donna MacPherson said. “Because the valley [where the fire is burning] is so full of smoke, people aren’t able see how big it really is.”
Spot fires as big as 10 hectares kept cropping up as well, and were frequently joining with the main blaze, helping to increase its overall size.
On Wednesday numerous people made calls to the Citizen as smoke from the Lizard Lake blaze rolled into the Cowichan Lake area, worried that a fire had started somewhere in the communities around the lake. By Thursday, smoke was noticeable in Duncan.
As of Thursday morning, there were 39 firefighters and four officers on the scene at Lizard Lake, along with seven helicopters, two pieces of heavy equipment and two water tenders. Air tankers had been able to drop retardant on the fire early on Wednesday, but had to stop once the smoke got too thick.
The fire was moving north, MacPherson said, and wasn’t threatening any communities or structures. Because the fire had crossed the highway and debris was rolling down on the road, the Pacific Marine Circle Route was closed between Port Renfrew and Mesachie Lake, and the Lizard Lake and Fairy Lake recreation areas were also closed. Travellers are encouraged to visit drivebc.ca for more information about highway closures, and sitesandtrailsbc.ca for information about recreation areas.
“We expect those closures to remain in place for some time,” MacPherson said.
There was some hope that the weather on Friday would help the firefighters’ cause.
“We expect that the temperature will change and there might be some precipitation on Friday,” MacPherson said, noting that while those conditions might assist the firefighters, it won’t mark the end of the fire ban in the region.