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Wildfire encroaches on North Island reserve

OCLUCJE, B.C- Members of the Nuchatlaht First Nation are feeling the intense pressure of a wildfire burning near their reserve today.

Due to health issues and the thick smoke in the direct vicinity of the Oclucje Reserve, the Band Office has been closed until further notice, or until the fires in the area are put out.

“Our office is closed down because people can’t breathe,” Band Manager Caroline Gladstone said.

“We’re having issues with all of the smoke and there’s a lot of ash here. People are getting sore throats and headaches, so I let them leave the community. I know they say don’t do that, but when you can’t breathe you have to find some air somewhere.”

Band manager Caroline Gladstone said the closest fire is about a kilometre away from the reserve.

That fire is burning near Espinose Creek, and is estimated to be at least 15 hectares in size.

Gladstone said concern is growing.

“I’ve been in touch with BC Wildfires,” Gladstone said.

“I’ve been going on the conference calls. A fire started about 70 metres from the road, about a kilometre and a half away from us. They can’t see anything because the smoke is too thick, so they have to rely on us to let them know what we’re seeing.”

The band has hired people to go on fire watch duties.

“We’ve have people that are in the community driving (around) and checking how close the fires are getting to us,” Gladstone said. “We have two or three right around us now. We have two really large ones close to us.”

The fire fighting crew are onsite now, or will be shortly, Gladstone told at roughly noon Monday.

“They have asked us if they can stay in the community; we will accommodate and feed them, and let them use our facilities on-site, so they can get rested up,” she added.

Also, as a result of all the local forest fires directly in the Zeballos area, the Northern Region Games have been cancelled.

Gladstone hopes relief will be on the way with possible rain in the forecast at the end of the week.

Nuchatlaht is located 300 kilometres west of Campbell River and is a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council which consists of 14 communities along the western portion of Vancouver Island.

It has roughly 20 members living on-reserve and a total membership of 162.

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