Although Highway 4 in central Vancouver Island remains indefinitely closed due to an out-of-control wildfire, Port Alberni’s mayor says there is no danger of the supply chain being cut off.
A detour has been put in place, which will route “essential” traffic from Port Alberni through to Lake Cowichan via Bamfield using forest-service and privately owned industrial roads. This includes delivery of supplies like gasoline and groceries.
The wildfire burning on Cameron Bluffs, near Cameron Lake, on Thursday morning (June 8) was listed as 140 hectares on the BC Wildfire dashboard.
“Although travel has become much more difficult because of this fire, we must keep from panicking and worrying,” said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. “The new route will keep our supply chain flowing, and we are not cut off from the east side of the Island. Although there may be a bit of a delay, our grocery stores will still be able to stock their shelves, our gas stations will not run out of fuel, and our restaurants will continue to get supplies. This is a bump in the road, quite literally, and we will get through this.”
Many gas stations in Port Alberni were out of gas by Wednesday evening as people lined up to fill their tanks, and community social media sites were filled with comments and photos about stores being low on some groceries. Mail was still being delivered and courier trucks were spotted in town Thursday morning.
Recycling collection has been suspended until June 13, according to a city advisory, because the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District cannot transport recyclables out of the Valley for processing. As a result the Third Avenue Recycling Depot will be closed as of 4:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8. Residents are asked to store their recyclables until the depot reopens on June 13.
The wildfire has been burning out of control since Saturday, June 3, prompting the closure of Highway 4. The province’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure warns that the road closure is “likely to last beyond the fire itself” because of damage to the road and instability of the slope where the fire is burning.
“At this time, we don’t know how long Highway 4 will be closed,” said Minions. “What we do know is that the right people are working hard to open it as soon as it is safe to do so. Other crews are keeping the alternate route safe so that essential travel can continue. For that, we should be thankful.”
The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) is keeping its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) open in case the situation changes. The City of Port Alberni says it will continue to provide support.