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Interface construction shut down for afternoons

Fire hazard remains at extreme over a period of days; construction industry worried about losing labour



Developers of the Nita Lake Lodge are no strangers to setbacks on their multi-million dollar Creekside project.

An expensive legal challenge cost developers $3 million and almost five months of lost time on the ground.

Now an extreme fire hazard rating looks like it could shut down one of the two development sites indefinitely.

On Wednesday the fire department issued a 1 p.m. shut down to contractors, advising them that they could not work throughout the afternoons during the current dry conditions.

The closures only apply to those construction sites where builders are in "interface" areas, or those areas which are close to the forest, like Kadenwood and Stonebridge.

For the developers of the Nita Lake Lodge that means the site of the 14-single family lots on the forested area west of Nita Lake will be affected by the closures. The site of the lodge itself is not affected.

"It usually gets drier and hotter in July and August as you can imagine," said David Ehrhardt, principal with the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

"From a work point of view that’s a real crisis."

Fire Chief Bruce Hall explained that full construction closures come when the fire hazard rating stays at extreme. That could be a possibility in the coming days depending on the first hazard.

"If we stay in extreme for a continued period of time and it looks like (the province) could be shutting the backwoods down, then we shut construction down," said Hall.

"I appreciate Nita Lake’s concern and all the contractors’ concerns about their projects but I would rather be safe and prevent any type of ignition sources that could be in the interface area."

Hall’s concern revolves around machines working next to the forest.

"It could be a spark from a machine or a spark from blasting, a couple of rocks even coming together that’s how dry it is," he said.

"We want to make sure that we have the opportunity to eliminate as many ignition factors as we possibly can. Unfortunately construction falls under that."

Whistler-Blackcomb has also shut down some work sites on the mountain for its summer ski run grooming and trail building for the mountain bike park. Some sites were closed even before the construction ban.

"There are some site specific indicators for us," said Arthur DeJong, the mountain planning and environmental resource manager for Whistler-Blackcomb.

"There are certain areas where the fuel loading is quite significant and we make that assessment on the site. We are, in some cases, more cautious than the regulations."

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