A small but aggressive wildfire on Vancouver Island has cut off the Alberni Valley.
Reported on June 4, the Cameron Bluffs wildfire now totals 140 hectares (346 acres) and prompted the province to shut down Hwy 4 on June 6. That closure remains in place, with a four-hour detour routing traffic through to Lake Cowichan via Bamfield using forest-service and privately owned industrial roads. While the road can handle commercial vehicles of up to 14,500 kg, travel is not advised
“The gravel detour route has narrow sections, sharp curves, single-lane bridges and challenging terrain. There is no cell service, gas stations or washroom facilities on the detour route,” the province notes. “It is strongly encouraged to wait to travel if possible.”
The disruption cuts off Alberni valley farmers, who depend on the route for incoming grain deliveries and outgoing milk shipments.
“I’m guessing we’re probably not going to have the milk picked up,” says Ed Dyson of Coleman Meadows Farm, whose regular pickup this morning didn’t happen.
“I’m definitely concerned,” he said. “We’re supposed to have grain delivery Thursday, so we’re hoping that can still happen because we have just a couple days’ of grain on the farm right now.”
Dyson expects the disruptions to last “for at least a few days,” though firm information is hard to come by. The fire is still listed as out of control.
“We have our grass silage, and this afternoon we’ll probably start rationing our grain,” he says “There’s only a finite amount of grain on the farm.”
Coleman Meadows is one of two cow dairies in the valley, which is also home to a water buffalo dairy. Communities on the island’s west coast also depend on the highway for food shipments. Vegetable growers who distribute via Vancouver Island Farm Products and livestock producers sending animals will face delays.
“It will also affect food, feed, farm supply and other essential goods coming into the valley and to west coast and remote communities,” says Heather Shobe, agricultural support coordinator with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District. “We’re working hard to support expansion of food production and processing opportunities in the Alberni-Clayoquot region, and this is an excellent example of why urgency and additional resources are needed.”