Tofino, Ucluelet, tourism businesses doing their best to make it through Highway 4 closure

Businesses in Tofino, Ucluelet, and Port Alberni are reeling from cancellations as Highway 4 remains closed. But with news that the highway could soon reopen for single-lane alternating traffic, there’s some hope the summer season can be salvaged.

Brian Cant, acting president and CEO of 4VI, a tourism organization dedicated to making sure tourism is a force for good on Vancouver Island, says businesses are using similar tactics that helped keep them afloat during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cant says the best way to support businesses is by rebooking a cancelled trip, buying gift cards, leaving positive online reviews, and even sharing businesses’ content on social media.

“I’m hopeful businesses will be able to make it through this interruption,” Cant said.

“If there’s an opportunity for people to support by purchasing gift cards or writing reviews, it helps more than I think people might imagine both in the short-term and the long-term.”

Cant adds that the region is still accessible by air, but driving isn’t advisable. The only route to the Pacific Rim right now is a four-hour detour on a narrow logging road, which is open for essential travel only.

Cant says he’s also heard of people wanting to see the fire in person or try to find a way around the highway closure to get to Cathedral Grove — a popular provincial park filled with old-growth trees that’s near the Cameron Bluffs fire.

“It’s an active wildfire site. There are more than 100 firefighters, heavy equipment, helicopters, police — this isn’t a place to go visit right now, it’s not a place to even go close and look at the fire.”

There is some good news on the fire front, the B.C. Wildfire Service says the Cameron Bluffs fire is now being held and isn’t likely to spread beyond its current boundary.

“The Cameron Bluffs wildfire is burning in very steep terrain with unstable rock slopes above Highway 4. Due to the fire, some tree roots have been compromised and are falling onto Highway 4,” the service says.

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“BC Wildfire Service personnel will continue assessing and falling [dangerous] trees on the north flank of the Cameron Bluffs wildfire, along the Highway 4 corridor. The essential work in this section of the fire is expected to be completed by the weekend, but is dependent on weather.”

The Ministry of Transportation says the highway is tentatively scheduled to reopen to single-lane alternating traffic on June 24 or 25, but it likely won’t be open to its full capacity until mid-July.

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