British Columbia

Out-of-control wildfire burning 5 km away from village of Sayward, B.C., on Vancouver Island

Wildfire service says no evacuation order has yet been issued, as the fire is burning parallel to the village of Sayward, located about 230 kilometres north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island's east coast.

'Everybody's on edge': Sayward Mayor Mark Baker

A smoky orange sky above a dark mountain outline of trees. The sun is seen through smoke.
Smoky skies engulfed Vancouver Island's east coast Tuesday in this photo taken from the village of Sayward, as Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement. (Debbie Zeiler)

Dozens of firefighters are battling an out-of-control blaze burning approximately five kilometres west of the village of Sayward, located about 230 kilometres north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island's east coast.

The Newcastle Creek fire covered 15 hectares on Monday evening but had grown to 90 hectares by Tuesday morning. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the B.C. Wildfire Service says its size remains about the same, but its status is still listed as out-of-control, with much of the region covered in smoke. 

Sayward Maytor Mark Baker says the village is preparing for the possibility of evacuation. 

"Everybody's on edge. When you see what happened in Lytton, and you see what's happening in the east right now, it's scary," said Baker. 

Houses in a row are pictured beneath mountains and trees, beneath a smoky sky and orange sun.
The Newcastle Creek fire is burning five kilometres west of the village of Sayward on Vancouver Island. There is currently no evacuation order for the area. (Christopher Heidenreich)

Baker says his primary concern is ensuring people stay safe, especially since there is only one road out of the village, which is enclosed on the other side by water.

"I'm grateful for the boots that are on the ground right now."

Fire information officer Julia Caranci says they have not issued an evacuation order as the fire is currently burning parallel to Sayward, not toward it. 

She says there are 55 firefighters on the ground and three helicopters currently battling the fire. They are expecting cooler temperatures and higher humidity over the next few days. 

"That's good news to us operationally, and we will be taking advantage of those conditions." 

A forst and mountains under a smoky orange and blue sky.
Sayward Mayor Mark Bake says the fire is visible from the village. (Joyce Ellis)

Caranci says smoky skies in the area will likely remain for now but could clear slightly tomorrow, depending on the wind. 

Environment Canada released a special air quality statement Tuesday for the east coast of Vancouver Island, warning wildfire smoke would impact the area for the next two days. 

It warns residents to reduce their time outdoors and to drink lots of water. 

While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, it is suspected to be human-caused. 

"We are really asking everyone to be extremely cautious and careful when they are out recreating and especially if they're going to have a campfire," said Caranci. 

The Strathcona Regional District is asking residents to subscribe to its alert system, which it says it will use to keep the community informed.

Caranci says people can also get updates from the B.C. Wildfire Service website and app.

With files from All Points West and Claire Palmer