‘Lots of stress’: Vancouver Island wildfire puts couple’s wedding at risk

Click to play video: 'Highway 4 remains closed due to Vancouver Island wildfire'
Highway 4 remains closed due to Vancouver Island wildfire
The Cameron Bluffs wildfire has cut off the safest way for some communities to access the rest of Vancouver Island. Some are tourists stuck in Tofino or Ucluelet, but others are locals now cut off from gas and supplies. A detour was made available today, but as Kylie Stanton reports, it's far from ideal – Jun 7, 2023

The hall is booked, the guests invited and after a long, stressful year of planning, Taylor Rodier and Allyssa Gagnon were all set to tie the knot on Friday.

Mother nature may have other plans.

The Port Alberni couple are now facing the possibility that the 140-hectare, out-of-control Cameron Bluffs wildfire could scuttle their best laid plans.

Taylor Rodier and Alyssa Gagnon. Taylor Rodier

“Lots of stress,” Rodier told Global News on Wednesday.

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“Most of everything that’s been planned for the wedding is coming from Nanaimo or Victoria, and the wedding being just around the corner — everything has been kind of on a giant hold.”

The fire, which is burning east of Port Alberni has forced the closure of Highway 4, the key route connecting the community with the rest of Vancouver Island.

An alternate route via industrial forest service roads is available, but has already seen one crash and Rodier said it would be difficult to expect their nearly 70 out-of-town guests to navigate the four-hour back road route.

Click to play video: 'B.C. mayor concerned with Highway 4 closure due to wildfire'
B.C. mayor concerned with Highway 4 closure due to wildfire

He said there’s no money in the budget to fly people in. The couple has discussed the possibility of heading out of the community and moving the event towards their guests, but said that would come at the cost of their bookings and all their plans.

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“If it’s open the day of the wedding, well, fingers crossed,” he said. “All we know is it’s closed right now.”

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming told Global News crews were working as hard as they could to restore the highway, but there was no timeline for it to reopen.

The alternate route, he warned, was not suitable for many drivers.

“That alternate route should only be used for what is absolutely essential travel, it is not ideal, it is gravel, it adds 4 hours to the commute, there are no washroom facilities, no gas stations, difficult terrain, tight and windy in certain areas,” he said.

“It’s there as a lifeline for the community and for people who have to travel for essential purposes, but we are by no means encouraging people to use it unless absolutely necessary.”

Click to play video: 'Cameron Bluffs wildfire forces closure of Hwy 4'
Cameron Bluffs wildfire forces closure of Hwy 4

The city’s mayor has said the closure is putting major stress on the community, which relies on the route for food, fuel and other critical supplies.

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The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District has established an emergency reception centre at Echo Centre in Port Alberni for travellers stranded in the community during the closure.

The BC Wildfire Service continues to battle the fire with 26 firefighters, two pieces of heavy equipment and the support of five helicopters as well air tankers. However, it said the fire is burning in steep, inaccessible terrain.

Rodier and Gagnon, meanwhile, are waiting, watching and hoping their plans to get hitched will go off without a hitch after all.

“It’s a mess right now and we genuinely don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said.

— with files from Kylie Stanton

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