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Wildfire continues to topple trees onto Highway 4 near Port Alberni

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A large, out-of-control wildfire continues to burn on Vancouver Island, forcing the closure of Highway 4, the only paved roadway to the island's west coast communities of Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet.

In an update Monday morning, fire information officer Shaelee Stearns said the fire was an estimated 254 hectares.

Some 76 firefighters, four helicopters and 10 pieces of heavy equipment were battling the blaze Monday, as well as an incident management team.

The Cameron Bluffs wildfire on Vancouver Island is pictured on June 9, 2023. (Transportation BC/Twitter)"The Cameron Bluff wildfire is burning in very steep terrain with unstable rock slopes above Highway 4," said Stearns.

"Due to the fire, some tree roots have been compromised and are falling onto Highway 4."

The wildfire is located just south of Cameron Lake, about 20 kilometres east of Port Alberni.

The B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) says crews are working to strengthen containment lines around the fire, and are conducting tree assessments throughout the fire site.

"The incident management team is working with our agency partners along with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to mitigate hazards along the highway corridor," said Stearns.

A firefighter was injured while battling the blaze on Saturday and was airlifted to hospital.

The B.C. Wildfire Service says it cannot comment on the extent of the person's injuries for privacy reasons.

Stearns says the BCWS and WorkSafeBC will launch their own investigations into the incident, as is protocol during any injury or accident during firefighting efforts.

Relatively cooler and wet weather helped firefighting efforts over the weekend, though higher temperatures and lower relative humidity, along with wind gusts, are expected this week, making firefighting efforts more difficult.

DETOUR IN EFFECT

A detour around Highway 4 is available, though the province says it should only be used for essential purposes.

Commercial vehicles carrying supplies, such as fuel and food, have priority on the roadway, according to the province.

The approximately four-hour detour is located along logging roads spanning from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni.

The unpaved roads are windy, dusty, and involve single-lane bridges.

No cellphone service is available on the detour route, and drivers are encouraged to bring food and water, and to be prepared for slow moving traffic with no opportunities to pass vehicles. 

Highway 4 has been closed since June 6 due to the wildfire. On Monday afternoon, the province said there was no estimate on when the highway will reopen.

The detour route is shown. (Province of B.C.)

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