Smoke from the Nanaimo Lakes wildfire earlier this week. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Firefighters ask public to ‘smarten up’ as they battle person-caused Nanaimo Lakes wildfire

Fire at 179 hectares and 25 per cent containment as of Wednesday evening

As crews keep trying to fight the Nanaimo Lakes wildfire, there are worries about increased fire danger by the weekend.

The fire southwest of the city grew to 179 hectares as of Wednesday evening, but it’s now considered 25 per cent contained, according to B.C. Wildfire Services.

Donna MacPherson, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre, said the fire “held really well” on three sides during Wednesday’s firefighting.

“There was some growth in the north part of the fire, but that’s the side that’s away from structures,” said Donna MacPherson, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre. “They’ve been focusing on the sides that could impact people the most … They’ve basically been able to get around on the west and the south and the east sides and now they’re trying to work toward the north. That’s the hard part because of the terrain.”

She added that the fire’s size increase from 160 to 179 hectares may not have been from fire growth, but due to a more accurate measurement taken today.

There were 64 personnel and eight helicopters at the location Wednesday and MacPherson said 10 firefighters will be continuing to work overnight tonight.

MacPherson said the message the fire centre really wants to get out is for members of the public to “smarten up,” as the Nanaimo fire and two fires that broke out in the Alberni Valley are all suspected to have been human-caused.

“All of those are preventable, so people need to be more aware of what they’re doing when they’re in the forest. We just don’t need any more starts,” MacPherson said. “We’re going into a potential of lightning toward the end of the week, so we need to make sure we’re not going into that time with a lot of large fires that we have to respond to.”

There has been no change to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s evacuation order and alert from Monday night.

The Nanaimo Lakes fire was first reported Sunday at two hectares, grew to 50 hectares by Monday morning and then to 107 hectares by Monday evening.

At 7:45 p.m. on Monday, the Regional District of Nanaimo issued evacuation orders and alerts. Only one residence was inside the evacuation order area, but campers were there. The alert area includes 77 homes on Elk Trails Way, Nanaimo River Road, South Forks Road and Twilight Way. For affected addresses and related information, click here.

On Tuesday morning, the fire was at 131 hectares, but the evacuation orders and alerts remained unchanged and further evacuation orders and alerts were not being considered. The fire was at 160 hectares by Tuesday evening with crews gaining some containment.

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