The Pacific Marine Circle Route remains closed as firefighters continue to battle the flames of a forest fire that began last Wednesday, Aug. 12.
What began as a 80 hectare fire has now been extended to 250 hectares and counting, a report by the BC Wildfire Service announced early Monday, Aug. 17.
An estimated 20 per cent of the fire has been contained since it began.
The amount of manpower has also increased. The first wave of firefighters began with 30, then increased to 60; now, there are 104 firefighters, eight helicopters and six pieces of heavy equipment.
A 16-person incident management team were phased into managing this fire on Aug. 14/15, 2015. Crew and equipment will be added and/or removed depending on how the state of the fire progresses.
Crews will also continue to focus on building a protection line and removing any dangerous trees remaining along the Pacific Marine road. Helicopter bucketing will be occurring along the north and south flanks.
There are other factors that have added to the ferocity of this fire, notes the Wildfire Service.
A large amount of slash piles in the area (piles of discarded pieces of trees) that have sat for long periods of time have acted as kindling; these are particularly dangerous (but advantageous) as they contain very little moisture in the lower pieces. Once on fire, the heat from each piece radiates heat, causing the others to lite up as well. According to firefighting specialists, the amount of water necessary to put this type of fire out would be enormous.
In addition, smoke and fog has created a dangerous visibility issue for pilots and crew on the ground, as well as health hazards for local communities, such as the Pacheedaht campground and the town of Port Renfrew. This effect will continue with the expected poor venting over the next 24 hours, said Wildfire BC.
The most active sides of the fire (north and east) are burning into forested land, and do not pose a threat to structures, homes or communities at this time. Containment to the south is progressing well.
The Pacific Marine Circle Route is expected to remain closed until the matter is resolved. The fire is currently burning on both sides of the highway, with smoke and falling debris making this area unsafe for public use.
A BC Wildfire Investigations Specialist was brought in to determine the origin and cause of this man-caused fire.