Several homes in the village of Zeballos are under an evacuation order due to wildfires on the surrounding hillsides. A photo taken on Friday shows thick smoke billowing up behind structures in the town. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Evacuation order issued in Island village due to ‘risk of falling debris’

Fire continues to threaten town’s only access road

Several homes in Zeballos are under an evacuation order as wildfires continue to burn on the hillsides surrounding the tiny logging village on the Island’s west coast. Meanwhile, a fire continues to threaten the town’s only access road.

Residents of six houses in Zeballos “must leave the area immediately,” according to an evacuation order issued by the village at 1:20 p.m. on Saturday. The homes are located on the northern stretches of Maquinna Avenue and Pandora Avenue.

A map issued by the village shows the homes are backed up against the surrounding hillside north of the Sugarloaf Bridge, a one-lane span that crosses the Zeballos River.

Article continues below.

A map issued by the village of Zeballos on Saturday afternoon shows the area affected by the evacuation order.

A statement on the Zeballos Emergency Program’s Facebook page said those properties have a “risk of falling debris.” The owners of those properties have been notified, it said.

The statement also noted that firefighters remained active in the community, including the Port McNeill Fire Department and a structural protection unit from Comox. That unit, along with a specialist in structural protection, were “setting up protection for property exposures,” it said.

“Keep our fingers crossed that the fire stays in its present state and that the weather cooperates,” it added. “A nice windless Zeballos rainstorm wouldn’t hurt.”

READ MORE: Authorities mull evacuation order for Zeballos on Friday

The BC Wildfire service said on its website Saturday that 16 firefighters were focussed on “placing hose lays and sprinklers along the base of the fire” and patrolling for burning debris.

Lightning-caused wildfires reached within 300 metres of some homes in Zeballos by Friday, and the fire covered an estimated 90 hectares.

The village issued an evacuation alert Thursday, and many residents of the village and neighbouring Ehattesaht First Nation reserve had left voluntarily by Friday.

Lightning storms last week also sparked wildfires 15 km south of Highway 19 on the Zeballos Mainline, a winding gravel road that also serves as the only access route for the village.

That fire, located near Pinder Creek, had reached an estimated 105 hectares by Saturday and was 10 per cent contained, according to the BC Wildfire Service’s website. Resources at Pinder Creek on Saturday included 17 firefighters, three helicopters and two pieces of heavy equipment.

READ MORE: Firefighters “beat down” flames outside of Zeballos

That road remained open on Saturday, but crews were closing it for 30-45 minute periods as workers removed trees from the roadside to create a firebreak. Those temporary road closures were expected to continue for a week or more, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

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