A helicopter drops water on wildfires burning just outside the village of Zeballos. The BC Wildfire Service said on Monday that choppers had been grounded due to heavy smoke, but that the blaze wasn’t approaching homes. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Zeballos wildfire not getting any closer to town – BC Wildfire Service

Authorities optimistic about Zeballos; choppers grounded due to heavy smoke

Wildfires continued to burn around Zeballos and its only access road on Monday, but the provincial wildfire authority said the fire directly outside the tiny logging town was “burning away from the village.”

“The fire isn’t coming any closer to town, which is great news,” said Lynn Wheeler, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.

Several homes remained under an evacuation order, and the rest of the town was on an evacuation alert, meaning that residents must be prepared to leave on a moment’s notice.

The fire was estimated at 90 hectares in size by Monday afternoon. That suggests that the fire hadn’t grown since Saturday, when the village issued an evacuation order for six homes.

However, it’s hard to get up-to-date estimates because helicopter resources are stretched so thin, said Wheeler.

“We can’t afford to send helicopters up just to estimate the size of fires, because they’re all busy fighting fires,” said Wheeler.

There are currently 65 wildfires burning north of Campbell River.

“We just cannot spare the resources,” she said.

She noted that the Zeballos blaze remains an out-of-control wildfire, the only containment being on the edge of town.

A crew of 10 firefighters was on-site, while helicopters were grounded due to heavy smoke.

“As soon as the smoke clears, we’ll be up in the air bucketing again,” Wheeler said.

Firefighters were still trying to protect homes from rolling debris, including rocks and burning trees.

Sprinkler systems were being used to protect structures, and firefighters were patrolling the community to deal with any burning debris that may roll into town.

READ MORE: Evacuation order issued for six homes in Zeballos due to ‘risk of falling debris’

READ MORE: East Zeballos placed under evacuation alert as “out of control” wildfire approaches homes

Despite the evacuation order issued by the village on Saturday, the fire isn’t an immediate threat to the community, according to the BC Wildfire Service. However, steep terrain has made the area hazardous for firefighters.

As for the fire at Pinder Creek, located just beside the logging road that serves as the town’s only access route, it had reached an estimated 200 hectares by Monday afternoon. That’s compared to 105 hectare just a few days ago.

The Pinder Creek fire, which is burning in heavy slash and timber, was only 10 per cent contained and there were 17 firefighters working on controlling the fire’s northern edge.

“They’re obviously trying to keep the road open and also [trying to] save the hydro poles, many of which are wood,” Wheeler said.

The fire is located roughly 15 km south of the Island Highway, on the Zeballos Mainline forest service road.

Crews have been working to create a firebreak by cutting down trees along the road, resulting in periodic road closures. The logging road is being closed for periods of perhaps 15 minutes to allow the fallers to work on the road, a process that may continue until as late as August 27.

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