A pile of driftwood caught fire next to an exit at a clearing on Chehalis Lake Saturday. (Submitted)

Wildfire threatens weekend campers at Chehalis Lake

The fire started on the north side of Chehalis Lake Saturday

A wildfire broke out on north side of Chehalis Lake over the weekend, after a campfire was allegedly left burning at a clearing near the lake.

According to Black Press Media reporter Amy Reid, who was camping in the area, a large pile of logs at the entrance of clearing where she and her fiancé were camping caught fire on Saturday, June 22.

According to Reid, she was camping at the far left of the clearing and didn’t notice the fire right away.

We had no line of sight to fire so (we) didn’t notice right away. Then we see people running to the creek filling up coolers,” she said. “We run over and immediately see the log pile on fire.”

The pile of driftwood, located at the only entrance to the clearing, wasn’t out of control; Reid and her fiancé helped other to fill coolers with water and dump it on top of the fire, which hadn’t gone past the top of the pile.

“About a minute or two later we saw how fast it was catching and growing. My fiancé slipped off the log pile as he dumped a cooler with water in it, landed on his neck,” Reid said. “He got up and started screaming at me to put the cooler down and we needed to leave.”

As they were packing up to leave, Reid began to have an asthma attack.

“I was in tears after we left because others hadn’t left yet — but my fiancé just kept saying we have to go get help and he was really worried about my asthma,” she said.

“I was honestly terrified. I didn’t know if we’d get out before road was blocked and the smoke inhalation alone could’ve killed me. I was balling, and I truly prayed I would see my kids again.”

The pair called in the fire once they got into cell service, and had to give dispatch directions to the clearing.

According to BC Wildfire information officer Donna MacPherson, an initial attack crew responded Saturday afternoon to reports of the fire, as well as two helicopters and a fire officer.

According to posts in the Four Wheel Drive Association BC Facebook group, campers were able to leave the clearing safely and have reported the license plates of the people who were camped adjacent to the pile that caught on fire.

MacPherson said the 0.15 hectare fire is currently under control, and firefighters will be on scene today (Monday, June 24) with heavy equipment to move the pile of driftwood and deal with the remaining fire.

MacPherson could not comment on the cause of the fire, as it is currently under investigation.

Right now open fires are banned in the Coastal Fire Centre, which encompasses Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the coast up to the area around Bella Coola. Campfires are currently allowed.

RELATED: Agassiz, Harrison prepared for uncertain wildfire season

The Chehalis Lake fire is the most recent fire reported in the Coastal Fire Centre, which has seen 55 wildfires so far this year.

For Reid, the help given by the many campers at the lake made it “clear that our back country is treated with respect by so many.” But the situation itself, which she believes was started by a nearby campfire, although “that’s for the authorities to determine,” was a sad one.

“It just saddens me. Our back country is so beautiful. This didn’t need to happen,” she said. “And honestly, lives could’ve been lost. If I had been without water and my puffer, I honestly don’t know what would have happened.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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