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B.C. fishing lodge practically empty, losing business from wildfire closure

"This was something we didn't see. Nobody could have predicted it,” says the owner of McKay Bay Lodge on Vancouver Island.

Business in Bamfield is normally booming in the summer for a family-run fishing lodge, but a wildfire off Highway 4 has halted people from coming to town.

McKay Bay Lodge is situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island and offers lodging for people who want to go fishing or enjoy the ocean. Many people tow their own boats from around B.C. and drive on Highway 4 to get to the lodge. 

Brian McKay, who owns and runs the lodge with his wife Cheryl, has been fielding calls every hour from people wondering if they have gas and food.

"We do have fuel, we've got food, we've got everything we need. We just need our clients back,” he says. 

The Cameron Bluffs wildfire closed the route on June 6. Trees, rocks and debris have fallen on the road and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been working to make the route safe.

In the meantime, the more than three-decade-old fishing lodge has been practically sitting empty for weeks now.

"We have lost about 80 to 85 per cent of our revenues for the lodge and plus the marina,” says McKay. “Town is pretty quiet.”

June is their most expensive month of the year with startup costs, property taxes at the end of the month and hiring on a full roster of staff. 

Many people launch their boats from the Alberni Inlet, which is not an option with the road closure. Some people were going to boat up from Port Renfrew, but McKay says windy conditions the past few weekends made that dangerous and people cancelled. 

“It's a little tough on everybody,” he says. “There's no charge for them, of course, it's just out of everybody's hands.”

They called all of the guests to give them options and alert them to the road closure.

“It's a lot of work, believe it or not,” he says. 

People who did have to cancel won’t be able to rebook as they’re too busy. 

“We're booked pretty much solid till about Sept. 15,” he says. “So whoever loses their trip will just have to wait till next year, unfortunately.”

The Ministry of Transportation is expecting to open Highway 4 to limited travel on the weekend of June 24. 

"A temporary load-bearing wall will be constructed in the eastbound lane of Highway 4 as a safeguard against potential falling debris that could result from an unstable slope. Protective mesh suspended by cranes will act as a barrier to falling rock and trees as the area continues to recover from fire damage,” states the ministry. 

Highway 4 will have single-lane, alternating traffic when it reopens.

"They're doing their best; hats off to them,” says McKay.

McKay says he’s been ‘praying’ for the last couple of weeks that everything will resume back to normal.

"This was something we didn't see. Nobody could have predicted it,” he says. 

For now, he's eagerly awaiting the return of people to the lodge so they can get back to fishing. 

“It’s not the end of the world,” he says. “I’m living in Bamfield."