On Thursday, Aug. 3 a wildfire sparked on Mosaic private lands on Tseshaht territory less than two kilometers from their main reserve. The Arbutus Mountain fire currently burns at 0.3 hectares and is being held with a ground crew of five personnel working to suppress the blaze.
“Last night was pretty nerve racking,” said Ken Watts, elected chief councillor of Tseshaht. “It was less than two kilometers away from our main community.”
Nick Donnelly, an information officer with the Coastal Fire Center, said that the fire was reported around 6:45 p.m. with immediate response by air and ground crews.
“These crews have done a great job attempting to prevent the fire from spreading. Air crews are unable to continue as the light fades, but ground crews are still actively at work,” reads a statement from Tseshaht in the later evening of August 3.
The statement noted that Mosaic, BC Wildfire Service as well as the Sproat Lake and City of Port Alberni Fire Departments have been working together to keep the Tseshaht community safe.
“At this time, there is no immediate threat to life or structure, and we encourage members to stay calm,” it continued. “Fire crews will continue to be on site for several hours but if the fire grows and places concerns on the Tseshaht community, more resources will be deployed.”
In 2018 the flames of a wildfire at Arbutus Summit were visible from across the Alberni Inlet, located close to where the current fire resides.
Arbutus Mountain ignited only two months after the Cameron Bluffs wildfire set ablaze. Cameron Lake is located partially in Tseshaht territory, making the Arbutus Mountain wildfire the second to ignite in Tseshaht Ḥahahuułi this summer.
“I think it's still so very nerve wracking…for a lot of our community just seeing the impacts of climate change,” said Watts. “These fires are just becoming a regular thing.”
“I think it really just drives home, how vigilant everybody needs to be given the drought conditions that we've been experiencing since last year and just how dry everything is,” said Donnelly.
The cause of the Arbutus Mountain Wildfire is currently under investigation.