Smoke plume rises from fire 2.5 kilometres from Ehatis on Vancouver Island's west coast. Photo by Ehattesaht/Chinehkint Councillor Cory Hanson.

First Nation declares state of emergency on Vancouver Island’s west coast

Wildfire reminds Zeballos-area First Nation of extensive evacuations due to blaze in 2018

After nearly a week of record temperatures, an overnight lightning storm touched off a fire just 2.5 kilometers from Ehatis on F5 just off of the Fair Harbour Forest Service Road.

According to the Coastal Fire Centre there are seven new fires on the North Island as a result of the electrical storm but this fire has left Ehatis and the Village of Zeballos thinking about 2018 and the small fire that grew rapidly and lead to extended evacuations.

By 9 a.m. BC Wildfire Service’s Coastal Fire Centre had an initial attack team on site accompanied by local Zeballos firefighters, and a local contractor, according to a press release from the Ehattesaht/Chinehkint First Nation. Two more helicopter crews were being dispatched and decisions around more resources would be made throughout the day. Crews will remain on site until the fire is extinguished and they are expecting a high degree of success in getting the fire under control because it was reported early and accurately.

While the Coastal Fire Centre is not recommending evacuation at this time Chief and Council have declared a State of Emergency for the community and are urging all the members and resident of Ehatis to be prepared and stay tuned for any new developments.

“This is not a time to be complacent,” said Chief Simon John. “As the past week went along I think we were all thinking about the forests and the dry conditions. Hearing the thunder and seeing the lightening last night had my heart sink. Then looking across the bay early this morning there was the smoke.”

Ehattesaht Council came together immediately and began activating the emergency planning. The Nation has set up their Emergency Coordination office and will continue to work with EMBC and the Coastal Fire Centre until this fire is extinguished. “We learned our lessons with the last fire and with Covid. We do not really have the option to wait and see. We really need to mobilize and prepare our people and our neighbours for any eventuality” commented Councillor Ernie Smith.

“We know living here that winds change and circumstances change and we can’t just hope it will be ok. We have to be ready” added Chief John.

As the Zeballos region heads into the long weekend and this really hot summer it is important that everyone is reminded just how dry BCs coastal forest are and how vulnerable some villages and communities are. “I know we can’t control things like lightening and no rain and high temperatures, but we can be careful when we are out enjoying the forests and the area.” added Chief John. “We can also be prepared and make sure we are connected to all the outside agencies.”

Councillor Cory Hanson commented “it’s been a tough year for our Nation coming out of the Covid outbreak. But our systems are in place and we were able to come together, reach out to government and get messages to our membership right away.”