As the wildfire rages on at Cameron Bluffs and Highway 4 remains closed for the foreseeable future, travelers became stranded as the emergency detour closed for several hours on Friday, June 9.
Earlier this week, a container truck utilizing the emergency detour rolled over. The emergency detour was scheduled to be closed for eight hours on June 9 as crews work to pull the truck out of Francis Lake.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Cowichan Lake detour is the safest public detour route and it is ensuring commercial goods are being delivered and supply chains are not impacted.
The 150-kilometer route winds over narrow, dusty logging roads, allowing the public a safe route between Port Alberni and Duncan, B.C.
The Ministry reminds the public that this is an emergency detour route and not a highway. While it has challenging travel conditions, it offers the most reliable connection to keep goods and people moving through the area until Highway 4 is opened again.
But there is another route out of Port Alberni that is just over 24 kilometers long. The Horne Lake Connecter route is a logging road that would connect Port Alberni to Highway 19, near Qualicum, BC. People are asking why this road has not been open to the public.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, there are several reasons. “The Horne Lake Connector is on private land owned by Mosaic and is a less safe route for general vehicle traffic,” they stated. They went on to say that this road is not appropriate for general traffic because it is a narrow, winding road with grades steeper than the designated detour route.
“Due to conditions along those routes, it was deemed that the current detour was the most reliable, safest and best-suited for highway traffic for people who require essential travel in this area,” the Ministry stated.
Mosaic, the company that owns the road, is allowing some travel through this area for people related to emergency response efforts, including ministry responders, BC Forest Services and Emergency Management crews. It is not open to the public.
The Ministry told Ha-Shilth-Sa that they are not considering opening an additional detour at this time.
The Cowichan Lake detour is allowing commercial trucks to get through, so supplies such as food and fuel are making it through to communities that are counting on them.
All vehicles, including commercial vehicles, must drive with caution as the detour route is an industrial gravel road with industrial conditions.
While only essential travel is recommended at this time, this detour opens a critical link to continue the movement of goods and people needing access to the region.