Rain cools Pemberton evacuation orders 

Firefighters continue to battle hot spots in the ground, fear return of hot weather


The rain has come, the fires are calming and residents of the Upper Pemberton Meadows are being allowed to return home, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District confirmed Tuesday.

The district issued a statement at 11 a.m. Tuesday confirming that residents living north of the Lillooet River from 9440 Hurley River Road up to the Howe Sound Outdoor School can return home. The Hurley Forest Service Road has also reopened and the Evacuation Alert for the Pemberton Meadows north of Wilson Road has been lifted.

The areas have borne witness to massive fires on both Copper Mountain and the east side of the Camel's Back in recent weeks, fires that have blanketed the valley in smoke and caught Meadows residents in the middle.

As of Tuesday, the fires measured in at 850 hectares each - about four times the area of Whistler's Lost Lake Park. Both estimates are up from a week ago but they're remaining steady at their current size.

Wednesday estimates pegged the Copper Mountain fire at 838.4 hectares and the Camel's Back at about 658 hectares.

The SLRD's decision to lift the evacuation order likely came as welcome news to Thomas Postrach, who lives with his family in a cabin at the Howe Sound Outdoor School, which is located beneath Copper Mountain.

Since being ordered to evacuate on July 31 they've been staying in a tent at the Nairn Falls campground because they didn't like staying in a local hotel. Speaking to Pique on Monday before the order was lifted, he said an RCMP officer came and visited him in the middle of the night when an alert was issued and later came again to evacuate him.

"We had a nice light show the first couple of nights," he said. "Then in the middle of the night one day they came with the evacuation alert, they came with it, and then when was it, last Friday, a week ago, they ordered us out."

The evacuation order lasted 11 days.

Coastal Fire Information Officer Mike McCulley told Pique in an interview that cooler weather and rain over the past few days have turned the Rank Three to Four fires to "creeping ground behaviour" and helped crews make good progress in putting them out.

"Things are looking good although we're still cautious," he said. "I just found out this morning that some of the rain that was predicted we may not get, so we could be back into hot, dry weather here real quick."

McCulley added that the chance of rain is decreasing daily and that crews would need a "heck of a lot more rain" in order to put the fires out.

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