Mt. Hicks fire threatens homes as it moves west

Agassiz crews monitor blaze around the clock

Heavy smoke across the Fraser Valley has been described as eery, unsettling and downright frightening.

But no where in the Valley is that more true than on the front line of the seemingly unstoppable Mt. Hicks wildfire. Burning 10 kilometres north of Agassiz, the fire is 35 per cent contained and less than 500 metres from a control line near Kamp Road.

The over 346-hectare wildfire has been burning for more than two weeks, and has become the largest single wildfire burning in the Coastal region.

The blaze made its way up steep terrain bordering Highway 7 after a spark from a trailer with a busted tire ignited the dry forest floor Aug. 8. Since then, the fire has done nothing but grow, reaching 150 hectares in seven days, and 318 hectares in 15.

On Sunday, westward outflow winds pushed the blaze closer to Kamp Road, where a small community of Kent farmers – with everything from dairy cows to hay fields – received hand-delivered evacuation alerts with directions to prepare for full evacuation, if the time comes.

Gene Chanasyk’s 50-acre Kamp Road property has been overrun with activity since early Wednesday morning.

As the northernmost home on the country road, his is the most vulnerable.

His rescue dog Jasper, stays close to his owner’s legs, sniffing suspiciously at newcomers.

“He’s getting used to all these people,” Chanasyk said, giving him a pat on the head.

Chanasyk leases his fields, but he still lives in the home he built himself in the early ’70s. He said this is the first time in 46 years of living on Kamp Road that he’s experienced a wildfire near his home, and he certainly never expected it to get so close.

“[The fire] was way over, one mountain range east of me and I thought well, ‘it’s still quite a ways away,’” he recalled. “But by golly, with the winds and everything else, pretty soon it was in a valley just east of me.”

A map of the area under evacuation alert in the District of Kent. (Facebook)

Surrounded by mountains, Chanasyk has watched the fire move in over the past few days.

“In about half a day it worked its way down the mountain, to the back of my farm,” he said.“You could see flare-ups all over the place and hear logs crashing, big trees coming down.”

“Little did I think in all these years that I would ever experience or witness something like that, but here it is.”

While BC Wildfire crews continue the battle from ground and air, with 45 firefighters and five helicopters on site, the Agassiz Fire Department (AFD), with assistance from Port Moody Fire Rescue and the Popkum Fire Department are soaking Kamp Road buildings and property lines with ‘sprinkler protection systems.’

Sprinklers wet the northernmost property on Kamp Road as residents remain on evacuation alert. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

AFD chief Wayne Dyer said eastern outflow winds could still push the fire back towards where it started – but wind is hard to predict so AFD and Seabird Island Fire Department have around-the-clock strike teams monitoring the fire’s movement around a control line on the west flank. The line is treated with water, while brush on the forest floor is dug out to create an unpassable perimeter.

But it’s impossible to know how well that perimeter will work unless the fire breaches the line, and officials won’t take any chances.

If the flames breach the control line, Kamp Road will evacuate.

Chanasyk is prepared to go. He filled a motorhome with antiques and important documents and is storing it at a friend’s place on Seabird Island.

“I took all the important and very dear things out of my house, so I don’t have to worry about them…except for the house itself,” he said.

Even as his home for the past four decades is threatened by one of B.C’s 563 merciless wildfires, Chanasyk remains hopeful thanks to the local and B.C. fire crews working around the clock.

“These guys are something else, I owe them a great deal of gratitude,” he said. “They are wonderful guys. I’m sure they’ll do the job and I think because of them, I’ll be spared.”

Country roads don’t come equipped with fire hydrants. The Agassiz Fire Department fills blow-up pools of water to be used for a sprinkler system on a Kamp Road farm property. (Nina Grossman/TheObserver)

Read More: Evacuation alert issued for Kamp Road properties as Mount Hicks fire moves west

Read More: Residents prepare after evacuation alert

Read More: Wildfire update: Fires burning in Fraser Canyon, Highway 7 and Skagit Valley



nina.grossman@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Harrison to bring better lighting to boat launch

The four new lights were made possible by not replacing concrete light poles on Hot Springs Road

Rail group to bring plan to Abbotsford council

Group is calling for plans to run trains on rail line between Chilliwack and Surrey

EDITORIAL: What does being a Corn Capital really mean?

The Observer has been asked to help Agassiz become a bigger Corn Capital. But what does that mean?

Construction project in Hope means bus diversion starting today

Bus riders will have to flag down driver for Route 22

Figures reveal spike in highway traffic jams between Abbotsford and Langley

Nearly one in 20 westbound vehicles between Abbotsford and Langley clocked at under 60 km/h

VIDEO: Agassiz remembers local officer at grave-marking ceremony

Montague White-Fraser had been buried in the Old Cemetery for 92 years without a headstone

Hazmat incident closes down Lower Mainland street

One person is believed to be dead, police said

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Latest plan is to fly trapped fish by helicopter over Big Bar slide

Multi-pronged plan set in motion to freesalmon blocked by landslide in the Fraser River

Family of missing B.C. senior with dementia frustrated with situation, heartened by community support

Nine days since Grace was last seen the question remains: ‘How can an 86-year-old just disappear?’

Unsealed record suggests U.S. man convicted of murdering Vancouver Island couple left DNA on zip tie in 1987

William Talbott is set to be sentenced Wednesday in the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg

Okanagan Air Cadet challenges gender-exclusive haircut policy

Haircut regulation inspires challenge around gender identity

Pride flags stolen from Lower Mainland church

Went missing sometime Friday night, says Maple Ridge reverend

25 new wheelchair-accessible cabins open at Cultus Lake Provincial Park

Maple Bay Campground is now home to 25 new wheelchair friendly cabins, a first for BC Parks

Most Read