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Helicopters with buckets called to battle Richmond forest fire

Martin van den Hemel   Jul-27-2018

Heavy smoke billows from a forest fire on the Department of National Defence lands along Westminster Highway.

Photo courtesy BC Wildfire Service


A growing forest fire in the Department of National Defence lands west of the Richmond Nature Park and along Westminster Highway has Richmond Fire-Rescue’s full attention Friday and is likely to hamper the afternoon commute.

A slight breeze was enough to cause the fire to grow by about a hectare in just an hour Friday around noon, when City of Richmond spokesperson Ted Townsend said it was estimated at covering five hectares.

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Helicopters with water buckets were being ordered in to assist the firefighting effort—when they would arrive wasn’t known. Hampering the efforts is the uneven root-gnarled terrain that’s about 1000 feet from the nearest road and necessitated the cutting of a trail along which firefighters placed water hoses.

The cause of the fire isn’t known, Townsend said. Although there was a strong smell of smoke as early as 4:15 a.m. south of Blundell at No. 4 Road, fire crews weren’t able to locate the fire until about 6:30 a.m.

Townsend said that because of the peat bog in the area, the fire could go underground and pop up elsewhere.

The city’s Emergency Operation Centre has been activated and Westminster Highway was shut down between No. 4 Road and Shell, and Shell Road was shut down between Alderbridge Way and Westminster Highway.

Asked about the Friday afternoon commute, Townsend advised that people avoid the area because emergency crews could be on the scene for some time still.

“We are quite concerned,” Townsend said.

The recent hot and dry spell means the city is leaning toward closing the trails at the Richmond Nature Park in the next little while, Townsend said.

As of May 1, smoking in prohibited in trails and park space following a newly introduced bylaw amendment.

There have been no known injuries to this point, Townsend said.

Asked about air quality implications, Townsend said it’s not bad in the immediate area around the fire.

•martinv@richmondsentinel.ca


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