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Port Alberni businesses feeling impact of wildfire closure


Some concerns have been eased in Port Alberni, a week after the Cameron Bluffs wildfire closed the only highway connecting the community to the rest of Vancouver Island. But while vital supplies are making their way to the community, some businesses are still being challenged by a lack of transportation.

A convoy of goods was escorted through the difficult detour route around Highway 4 over the weekend, bringing food, fuel and a sense of security to some people living in the community.

Grocery stores and restaurants were resupplied as the province organized a guided convoy.

At the end of last week, the J&L Drive-In in Port Alberni was running low on a few menu items.

"Pepsi was having a hard time delivering our pop order," said owner Chelsi Leskinen.

"But we did get it. We just ordered extra this time and so we've got enough just in case the highway has to shut down for a couple of weeks," she said.

However, fuel shortages remain a concern in the community.

"We're really playing fuel day by day," said Daniel Sailland, chief administrative officer for the Alberni Clayquot Regional District.

Sailland says that over the weekend, some fuel trucks did make it into the community, topping up some station tanks. Others, however, are still empty, and some have put restrictions in place to conserve what they were able to bring in.

"It will definitely have an impact on the community and the tourism season for this summer," said Jolleen Dick, CEO of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.


Dick says the wildfire and highway closure has affected each business differently.

"One of the businesses, for example, is a furniture company and they had 30 pieces of furniture that was expected to come in," she said.

"They tried to find alternative arrangements but unfortunately that may have been sold to someone else."

The construction industry has also been hit particularly hard by the highway cut-off.

Getting crews into Port Alberni from south of Cameron Lake has been nearly impossible, and construction materials can't get through.

"Roofing trusses and what not, these are the oversized materials that are not permitted on this reroute," said Sailland.

The Cameron Bluffs wildfire on Vancouver Island is pictured on June 9, 2023. (Transportation BC/Twitter)While the wildfire has created many challenges, it has also brought the community together.

"Now what we're seeing is a lot more gratitude and a lot more support," said Sailland.

"We're seeing volunteer groups, including pilots flying people and materials in and out," he said. "We're seeing the general public coordinate carpooling and supporting one another." Top Stories

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