On Friday, Aug. 6 at around 5 p.m., a Turbine DC-3 plane swirled around Mount Prevost, near Duncan. B.C., carrying very special cargo. One by one, seven firefighters jumped from the plane, adjacent to a 32-hectare, out-of-control wildfire in the Copper Canyon area of the Chemainus River valley. Also from the plane fell enough gear to support the crew, as they did what they could to control the Holyoak Creek fire’s growth overnight.
These firefighters are members of the BC Wildfire Service Parattack program, which offers a quick response to remote wildfires. They flew from Fort St. John for this mission. Their jumps marked the first time ever that smokejumpers have come to Vancouver Island, confirmed Dorthe Jakobsen, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre.
Under the smokejumpers’ watch, the fire did not grow overnight, Jakobsen said. About five millimetres of rain helped control its growth. However, with wind in the forecast for Sunday, BC Wildfire Service plans “aggressive action” to control the fire on Saturday, Aug. 7.
“Weather conditions can change very quickly,” Jakobsen said. “We’re definitely hoping for good progress today.”
That response will include five helicopters, 30 firefighters, water trucks and excavators. A sprinkler system has been set up to protect a property in the area, where an evacuation order is in effect.
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The Cowichan Valley Regional District and the Municipality of North Cowichan declared a local state of emergency related to the fire on Friday, Aug. 6. The state of emergency applies to the areas around Mount Prevost and Mount Sicker, bordering Hillcrest, Somenos, Chemainus, Westholme and Saltair.
The CVRD has set up a Regional Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the response. It is communicating with local fire departments and Halalt First Nation. In a call early Saturday morning, CVRD communication manager Kris Schumacher said the team met at 8:30 a.m. and will meet again at 11 a.m. to plan and respond.