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Update: Wildfire under control in Coquitlam's Minnekhada Regional Park

About 50 firefighters spent 48 hours continuously holding the reportedly human-caused blaze, and an investigation will be conducted as soon as the fire is out, officials say.

2:15 p.m., Oct. 6

A 14-hectare wildfire is now under control in Minnekhada Regional Park.

As of 2:10 p.m., the Metro Vancouver Regional District (MVRD) says ground and aerial crews were able to establish a perimeter in the last 48 hours to effectively contain the Coquitlam blaze.

The reportedly human-caused fire began last Saturday (Oct. 1) in High Knoll, but a more thorough investigation in to the exact cause is set to take place once the flames are fully extinguished.

"Minnekhada Regional Park will remain closed over the long weekend as firefighting efforts are ongoing," the authority added in a news release today (Oct. 6).

"Intermittent smoke may be visible from isolated pockets over the course of the operation."

The MVRD explained a 50-person team "worked diligently" to put down hose lines, secure water supply and created a 50-foot "wet line" to contain the fire and prevent any further spread.

Firefighters are now working to close in on the fire and douse hot-spots in the area.

The Tri-Cities is still under a high-to-extreme fire danger rating given the current drier-than-normal conditions in local parks.

"The Minnekhada wildfire serves as a reminder that even a small heat source can spark a major fire – be vigilant around all ignition sources and report any fires to 9-1-1," the MVRD said. 

For more information, you can visit the regional authority's website.

- with files from Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News

9 a.m., Oct. 5

Minnekhada Regional Park is expected to be closed through the Thanksgiving weekend to give fire crews time to fully extinguish a stubborn wildfire.

What began as a brush fire on High Knoll in the 200 acre park in Coquitlam on Saturday, Oct. 1, grew to 14 hectares (34 acres) in size as burning embers and branches dropped down a cliff face igniting trees below.

The BC Fire Service believes the fire is human caused and an investigation will be conducted as soon as the fire is completely out, officials say.

The fire is currently in a “held position,” which means the wildfire is not likely to spread behind predetermined boundaries under prevailing conditions, according to Brant Arnold-Smith, emergency operations centre manager for Metro Vancouver.

Before the fire can be called “under control,” suppression methods have to ensure the fire won’t spread further, he said.

Arnold-Smith confirmed that it’s likely to take several more days to ensure the fire is completely out, at which time assessment and recovery efforts can begin.

In the meantime, the park has to be closed to ensure public safety.

Still, Arnold-Smith is pleased with the fire suppression efforts so far.

“Our crews are establishing control lines, they are conducting fuel management activities and making excellent headway in knocking down and extinguishing hot spots.”

Why is it taking so long to put out the fire?

Among the complications in fighting the fire was the fact the the fire was in steep terrain and required complex strategies - and substantial resources - to stop the fire from expanding.

Additionally, there was little access to water.

“Crews encompassed the area utilizing sprinklers and hose lines, and upon cliffs using aerial bucketing, but sometimes the fire, because of its inaccessibility, we’d have to let it burn on the cliffs because we could not reach it and allow the fire to come to us and a safe location at a fire line, with hoses or buckets.” said Arnold-Smith.

Firefighters at risk in amidst burning embers

Helicopters flying near the cliffs had to stop flying once it began to get dark for safety reasons, but crews have remained on site each evening to patrol the area.

Firefighter safety was also a factor as burning branches would drop, which could cause injury.

“There have been a lot of tactics needed and strategic planning to make sure the fire was at the point of being held today and more work has been completed,” he said Tuesday.

“The crews have been working together to suppress this fire to the point where it will be contained.”

Trails leading to High Knoll were used as fire breaks and additional helicopters were brought in while a fire hydrant at Minnekhada Lodge was used for water to fight the blaze.

 

Minnekhada wildfire a "wake-up call"

Crews from Metro Vancouver Emergency Services - usually on standby to fight fires in watersheds - and BC Fire Services have been fighting the blaze.

Two engines from Coquitlam Fire Rescue also assisted last Saturday to help with equipment, logistics and personnel. They also got in touch with residents of three homes living near the Pitt River to let them now about the fire.

No evacuations were required, however, Chief Jim Ogloff said if alerts or evacuations were necessary, they would be provided by the BC Wildfire Service.

Ogloff said the fire close to Coquitlam is a "wake-up call" to residents to be prepared for a fire, especially for those living near woodland areas.

The City of Coquitlam has put out information for residents to help them make plans. The effort comes as the city is also preparing for Fire Prevention Week next week.

While the fire will take time to completely eradicate, Tri-City residents will continue to see and smell smoke, said Arnold-Smith, and, the haze, combined with smoke from wildfires in Hope and Chilliwack, could effect air quality.

Speculation that the fire was human-cause arose because there was no lightning to spark the blaze on Saturday morning, Arnold-Smith said, and he said an investigation will determine the exact cause.

Meanwhile, concern has been raised on social media about the fate of the animals.

Metro Vancouver park services has said it will do a wildlife assessment after the fire has been extinguished.

Metro Vancouver is reminding visitors to local forests and parks that It is exceptionally dry outside for this time of year, and the region is under a high-to-extreme fire danger rating heading into the long weekend.

"This event serves as a reminder that even a small heat source can spark a major fire – be vigilant around all ignition sources and report any fires to 9-1-1,” Metro Vancouver stated in a press release.

 

12:30 p.m., Oct. 4

The wildfire at Minnekhada Regional Park in Coquitlam has grown to 14 hectares but is closer to being under control, officials say.

It's currently being "held" as crews use sprinklers and hoses to extinguish the blaze, which is expected to take several more days.

The park will remain closed while crews continue to fight the fire in difficult terrain, said Brant Arnold-Smith, emergency operations centre director with Metro Vancouver.

The fire has been very spotty," Arnold-Smith told the Tri-City News.

While it's currently 14 hectares in size approximately, some areas are not affected by the wildfire. Consequently, there are still fuels available in that area, he said.

"it is possible during next stage of firefighting operations that certain patches can ignite, our crews have encompassed the fire and our crews will be able to put out hot spots as they arise."

As many as 50 firefighters, with the assistance of helicopters, are working to suppress the blaze that began Saturday, Oct. 1.

"Work by ground crews and aerial support over the past 24 hours has allowed firefighters to access critical areas and establish hose lines around the fire perimeter," states a press release that was issued at noon today.

Despite the efforts, including dropping of thousands of gallons of water on the fire by helicopter, the fire has grown by about two hectares since yesterday.

Still, the fact that it is now coming under control is good news for those concerned about the fire and its impact on the park and park trails.

A spokesperson from Coquitlam Search and Rescue said their services have not been required and they are standing by.

However, Helena Michelis said as far as she knows no hikers were affected by the blaze when it started on the weekend.

The blaze is deemed "human caused" but no explanation has been provided as to what may have happened.

Metro Vancouver is reminding visitors to local forests and parks that It is exceptionally dry outside for this time of year, and the region is under a high-to-extreme fire danger rating heading into the long weekend.

High to extreme fire danger

"This event serves as a reminder that even a small heat source can spark a major fire – be vigilant around all ignition sources and report any fires to 9-1-1."

Concern about animals affected by the fire has been raised on social media.

So far Metro Vancouver has no information on what animals may have been affected, but a spokesperson with the regional authority said an assessment of wildlife will be taken once the wildfire has been completely suppressed by fire crews.

Smoke may still be visible from the fire at times, noted Metro Vancouver.

However, one report from a local resident said the air seemed clearer today.

"I can't really make out the smoke from the Knoll," said Jessie Bahrey in a message to the Tri-City News.

"But the air is so much better since about 6 a.m."

9 a.m., Oct. 4

Fire crews remained on the scene of the Minnekhada Regional Park wildfire overnight and an update is expected this morning.

Yesterday, the fire was doused with thousands of gallons of water collected from the Pitt River in buckets carried by five helicopters.

No evacuations have taken place.

Due to ongoing dry conditions, putting out the wildfire completely is expected to take multiple days.

 

12 p.m., Oct. 3.

As many as five helicopters are dumping buckets of water collected from Pitt River to douse a fire at Minnekhada Regional Park this afternoon.

Efforts to put out the blaze started early today, Monday, Oct. 3., with Metro Vancouver Emergency Management establishing a command post to deal with the fire that ignited on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Ground crews are also at the scene, which is in steep terrain.

In an update to the media at noon today, Metro Vancouver states that the fire did not show any growth overnight.

"Thanks to proactive firefighting efforts yesterday by Metro Vancouver and BC Wildfire Service, crews have been successful at slowing the growth of a fire that began Saturday in Minnekhada Regional Park," the press release states. 

"Though not fully contained, an aerial assessment this morning found minimal overnight growth. Currently, the fire is spotty over an area of approximately 12 hectares."

However, with continued dry weather in the forecast, the firefighting effort is expected to be a multi-day operation.

Drones are dangerous

Meanwhile, Coquitlam RCMP are asking people to stay away from the area to allow fire crews to deal with the wildfire while a warning has gone out to people considering flying drones to get a better view of the blaze.

"The use of drones over an active wildfire is strictly prohibited. The use of drones not only impedes operations but could put firefighters and pilots at risk," states a social media post from the City of Coquitlam.

The post also states that evacuations are not anticipated.

However, one Coquitlam family is worried a strong wind could send the fire in their direction.

Coquitlam family worried if fire spreads

The Muirs live on Victoria Drive, a 10 minute drive from the entrance to the now-closed Minnekhada Regional Park.

They have already boxed personal items and documents in tubs in case they need to evacuate.

Jeremiah Muir said his house is surrounded by smoke.

"I’ve been monitoring it all night form where I work. Today as I got out of my van, 10 to 15 minutes ago, I could taste the smoke in my mouth."

He and his wife, Eli, are anxious about the fire being so close to their house and are surprised they weren't personally contacted by any officials to let them know about the blaze.

"I’m not too happy that there wasn’t anybody coming by and knocking on the door leaving us a note, saying there’s a fire down the street, I had to find it through the media."

Minnekhada fire evacuations not anticipated

However, while the city says it does not anticipate evacuations, members of the public are encouraged to follow Metro Vancouver and or City of Coquttlam social media channels for situation updates.

City of Coquitlam Facebook

Metro Vancouver Facebook

Coquitlam Fire Chief Jim Ogloff is also expected to give a briefing to council today.

In addition, the city will also have a page up on its website shortly updates will be posted.See www.coquitlam.ca/wildfire .

 

 

Wildfire smoke a concern

Meanwhile, smoke from the fire continues to affect air quality in the region.

Metro Vancouver monitors air quality in the region and posts current readings on AirMap. Check the BC Government website for advice on how to minimize the health effects of wildfire smoke.

 

10 a.m., Oct. 3.

The B.C. Wildfire Service is reporting the Minnekhada Regional Park fire is "out of control" and up to 11.6 hectares.

The wildfire map, available online, also states that the fire was "person-caused." 

The Tri-City News is expecting an update from Metro Vancouver Emergency Management this morning.

Minnekhada Park Association meanwhile is expressing "sadness" and concern about the fire, which started Saturday, (Oct.1).

In a social media post the group also asked people not to use drones to get photos of the fire out of concern they might interfere with the work of helicopters.

 

9 a.m., Oct. 3

Crews are on the scene of the fire at High Knoll in Minnekhada Park after two consecutive days of firefighting.

The terrain is extremely steep, making access difficult.

The BC Fire Map says the fire is out of control, has grown to 12 hectares and it was person-caused.

The park is still closed for crews to attack the blaze.

In a Tweet Sunday night, Metro Vancouver Emergency Services said it would remain on the scene overnight and be back to fighting the fire on Monday morning.

Smoke has drifted west from the fire, and the smell of smoke is distinct as far away as New Westminster and Burnaby.

On Sunday, Metro Vancouver reported areas of moderate risk due to wildfire smoke.

 

Crews are continuing to work to suppress a #wildfire on extremely steep and challenging terrain at #Minnekhada Regional Park. The safety of residents and fire crews remains the top priority. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/J0Says4kTi

 

10:30 p.m., Oct. 1

Minnekhada Regional Park in Coquitlam was closed for several hours today, Saturday (Oct. 1), while firefighters from several jurisdictions worked to put out a smouldering blaze.

The fire is still burning and work to put out the blaze is expected to continue Sunday.

Crews from BC Wildfire, Coquitlam Fire Rescue, Metro Vancouver as well as two helicopters worked for most of the day, Saturday, to extinguish the wildfire at Minnekhada.

The fire was located at High Knoll and has been since early that morning, according to reports.

Metro Vancouver Regional District Emergency Services reported around noon that the fire was under control and not spreading,

However, Metro Vancouver closed the park to assist crews with operations and to ensure public safety.

Two helicopters performed water drops all afternoon and a third helicopter was requested. 

Due to challenging terrain, it is expected to take some time to completely extinguish the fire.

"The fire is on an extremely steep slope face that isn't accessible by ground crews. We are dependent on bucketing from helicopters which can only fly during daylight hours," said Coquitlam Fire deputy chief Scott Young.

He said by 4 p.m., the fire was less than half a hectare in size. However, it was still burning.

"There is still visible flame at times," Young said.

Metro Vancouver Parks is in command of operations while Coquitlam firefighters worked with the wildfire initial attack crew on building a fire guard while the helicopter bucketed.

Efforts to put out the fire are expected to continue Sunday morning.

"We will assist if ground resources are requested," Young said.

The current fire rating at the park is high, according to the Minnekhada Regional Park website.

Check back for updates.

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