Gold River wildfire persists, crews watch change in weather

Cooler temperatures and a forecast for rain are expected to help firefighters contain a stubborn blaze on a steep slope at Matchlee Bay, a remote area eight kilometres southeast of Gold River.

The fire, in an active logging area with felled and bucked timber, is about eight hectares in size. Discovered Monday, it is considered “out of control,” said a spokeswoman for the B.C. Wildfire Service’s Coastal Fire Centre.

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Marg Drysdale said cooler, unseasonable temperatures and showers throughout the coastal region are expected to start this weekend and continue to May 1. The weather pattern is expected to “dampen down the fire’s behaviour” for the 15 firefighters at Matchlee Bay and help to provide needed moisture to debris on forest floors, which has put much of the coast at a “moderate risk,” she said.

A helicopter is providing assistance at Matchlee Bay by moving crew members to hotspots, delivering water buckets and equipment and giving supervisors a bird’s-eye view of the area.

The fire has not grown in size over the past two days, Drysdale said, but the blaze is persistent.

The service said the fire was human-caused, and an investigation is continuing.

She said the fire is in steep terrain and there is concern for crews because of “rolling debris.”

Drysdale said firefighters are being staggered along the slopes as they attack open fire and hot spots.

The fire is the largest fire on Vancouver Island this year. There have been 16 blazes on the Island since April 1, most small brush fires.

Most of the province is under a moderate fire risk and there are currently no bans on campfires and open burning.

But Drysdale said people should be cautious as the forest floors are dry and susceptible to fire risk.

“Location is everything and people should be careful,” she said. “There are so many micro-climates on the Island and conditions may be different less than a kilometre apart.”

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