A closeup look at the damage left by the Wood Lake Wildfire.

Users asked to stay out of west Harrison road

Professional crews assessing and dealing with hazards as a result of Wood Lake Wildfire

The Sts’ailes Forest Service Road (Harrison West) is still closed following the end of the Wood Lake Wildfire.

The BC Wildfire Service lifted a closure that surrounded the site of the Wood Lake Wildfire after the blaze was finally put out Sept. 2, a full month after the fire was first reported. However, management of the forest service roads in the area is under the jurisdiction of the Chilliwack Natural Resource District.

Allan Johnsrude, district manager for the Chilliwack Natural Resource District, says he will not remove the restriction until they can ensure the area has been fully checked and secured for fire-related hazards.

“What I’m looking at now . . . is any new hazards as a result of this fire,” he says. “There are a number of them scattered throughout the area.”

The Wood Lake wildfire, which started August 2 and is presumed to be manmade, ate up a huge swath of land on the west side of Harrison Lake, reaching nearly two and a half times the size of Harrison Hot Springs. It took with it several significant First Nations cultural sites, almost 14 square kilometres of forest and shut down an active recreation playground for campers, four-wheelers, hikers and more.

Following the BC Wildfire Service’s pronouncement that the fire was out, a professional engineer conducted two overview assessments and made recommendations for hazard areas. Hazards can include danger trees, rock fall areas and potential slope instability.

Johnsrude explains that while they will aim to open the forest service road itself, it will be a through-road, not for vehicles to stop in for recreation, at least until they can ensure the safety of the area.

“We’ll be asking people generally to avoid playing in the fire area,” says Johnsrude. “I don’t foresee the recreation sites within the fire area to be open for the remainder of the season.”

Local rec users have been itching to get up to check out Hale Creek, a popular destination for four-wheelers complete with amenities built by volunteers. On the Four Wheel Drive Association of BC Facebook page, member Tor Tvete confirms he went into the area last weekend through an access point at Weaver Lake (not on the forest service road where the blockade is set up). He confirms the area is a “mess” and will require professionals to come in and clear the area.

“A lot more trees ready to fall from burn damage,” he writes. “It’s nasty.”

Allansrude says while he appreciates that people want to get back to their recreation activities in the area, he asks that they stay out until the hazards are dealt with.

“It’s a closed road with the intent to keep the public out in the short term,” he stated Tuesday. “The rec sites are closed, the road is closed, so just stay out for a little while longer.”

The Four Wheel Drive Association will be having a West Harrison Maintenance Run Saturday, Sept. 12 to Frances Lake. They plan to work on picnic tables and anything else that needs work. However, the organization stresses they will not be accessing Hale or attempting to do that, reporting that when they are allowed to enter the site they will organize a work crew. For anyone interested in joining the work crew for Frances Lake, they will be meeting at Sasquatch at 9:30, departing at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

The Sts’ailes FSR is currently open to the 8.5 km mark, with a gate installed at that point. For closure status, see https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/dck

The Weaver Lake, Weaver Lake Group sites, Grace Lake, Wolf Lake & Skwellepil sites are open. You can also visit www.sitesandtrailsbc.ca for the most current rec site closures.

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