The smoke and ash enveloping the Parksville Qualicum Beach region this weekend is from three blazes in the Coastal Fire Region, two on the Island and one on the Sunshine Coast.
Weather patterns and eye witness accounts suggest most of the smoke and ash here is coming from a forest fire just two kilometres outside Sechelt, roughly 50 kilometres as the gull flies across the Salish Sea.
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, an air quality advisory had not been issued for this region by the Ministry of Environment, which did issue an advisory for the Sunshine Coast. Real time air quality information in B.C. is available at www.bcairquality.ca.
The fire burning Sunday closest to Parksville Qualicum Beach was the Dog Mountain fire above the shores of Sproat Lake near Port Alberni. According to the B.C. Wildfire Branch, that fire was at 35 hectares (about 86 acres). Seasonal cabins were evacuated on Saturday. The fire is on steep terrain and as of Sunday afternoon had 21 firefighters and three helicopters on site.
Parksville-based crews from the B.C. Wildfire Service are part of the battle against the Tsulquate River fire near Port Hardy. It was at 17 ha Sunday night and an evacuation order, put in place for dozens or residents on Saturday, was lifted Sunday. Many residents of Port Hardy remain on evacuation alert.
The Old Sechelt Mine fire was at 80 ha Saturday night and the Sunshine Coast Regional District has issued an evacuation alert. According to the Sunshine Coast RCMP a 61-year-old man from nearby Gibsons was killed Sunday while assisting with firefighting efforts.
People in Sechelt — and many in Parksville Qualicum Beach — awoke Sunday morning to a layer of ash on their vehicles, driveways and houses.
The continued hot dry, conditions have also put much of Vancouver Island, including Parksville, at a Level 4 drought rating and forced officials to ban any kind of burning throughout the province. The forecast calls for high temperatures ranging from 25-31 degrees through Friday, with no rain expected.
The province announced Level 4 drought conditions for Vancouver Island on Friday and took the additional action of suspending angling in streams and rivers throughout southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands due to ongoing low stream flows and warming water temperatures.
“At Level 4, conditions are extremely dry,” said a news release from the province. “Further declines in stream, lake and aquifer levels could lead to water shortages and affect people, industry such as agriculture, wildlife, and fish stocks. All water users are urged to maximize their water conservation efforts.”
The Regional District of Nanaimo has closed the Arrowsmith CPR Regional Trail that runs from Cameron Lake up to the old Arrowsmith ski hill. Hikers looking to climb Mount Arrowsmith and Mount Cokely are advised that the private logging roads which provide access to the back country have all been shut by the landowner. The RDN is also reminding people there is no smoking permitted at this time in any RDN park or trail.
Continue to visit this website and pick up Tuesday’s edition of The Parksville Qualicum Beach News for updates.