New wildfire burning near Port Alberni ‘very active’

A new wildfire near Port Alberni broke out late Thursday night, joining three other serious blazes on Vancouver Island.

The Arbutus Summit fire across the inlet from Port Alberni was listed at five hectares by late Friday afternoon.

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Port Alberni officials reported on Twitter that the fire as “very active and difficult to fight due to winds.”

The city said aircraft had dropped a line of fire retardant to protect nearby cellphone towers, while the Port Alberni Fire Department continued to battle the blaze.

Farther north, the wildfire burning near Lacy Lake in the Beaufort Range was still listed at 10 hectares and holding Friday.

Port Alberni officials said the fire was 80 per cent contained.

The Nanaimo Lakes wildfire, meanwhile, continued to burn out of control about 13 kilometres southwest of Nanaimo.

The B.C. Wildfire Service listed the 179-hectare blaze as 30 per cent contained on the side facing homes along Nanaimo Lake Road.

“Crews have made good progress on this fire,” the service said. “So far the fire is holding well, despite the increasing winds.”

An evacuation alert affecting 77 homes to the east of the fire remained in effect.

The wildfire service said 54 firefighters, three helicopters and 18 pieces of heavy equipment continued to battle blaze.

The Regional District of Nanaimo said Nanaimo Lakes Road and Nanaimo River Road remain closed at South Forks Road.

Finally, the Maple Mountain fire near Duncan was listed at 5.5 hectares late Friday afternoon.

North Cowichan-Duncan RCMP, who are investigating the fire’s cause, say they received reports of a suspicious man behaving erratically at Maple Mountain and Osborne Bay Road between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“Police are seeking the public’s assistance and any witnesses who may observed this male or any other suspicious activity in the Maple Mountain area around the time of the fire,” the detachment said in a statement.

Anyone with information is asked to call the RCMP at 250-748-5522 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

The North Cowichan municipality said in a statement that 40 firefighters from five departments continued to battle the blaze.

“A combination of heat and wind this afternoon created some challenges but the crews are keeping the wildfire contained.”

An evacuation alert remained in place for homes east of Osborne Bay Rd. from Herd Road to Tatlo Road West, the municipality said.

Officials expected temperatures to cool Saturday, but with a chance of lightning storms.

“Please continue to be alert and on the lookout for any new fires,” the municipality said. “If you see smoke or flames, please call 911 to report the concern and provide detailed location information to assist firefighters in locating the potential fire.”

In addition, the wildfire service urged people to respect the open fire bans and be careful in the forests.

“The vast majority of the fires reported this week have been human-caused and we’re very concerned,” said Dorothy Jacobsen of the wildfire service. “It takes precious resources away from naturally caused wildfires.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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