Members of the Chilliwack Fire Department stack sandbags around a house at the end of Ballam Road on Monday evening. Water from the nearby Fraser River rose 24 inches in less than two hours at this property.

Fraser River threatens three homes on Ballam Road in Chilliwack

Eight thousand sandbags were used by Chilliwack firefighters Monday to protect a Ballam Road home after a bank of the Fraser River failed and the water came rushing in.

Eight thousand sandbags were used by Chilliwack firefighters Monday to protect a Ballam Road home after a bank of the Fraser River failed and the water came rushing in.

Two other homes in the area are at risk as a flood “specialist” has taken to the air to help ground crews “strategize” how best to deflect the slowly rising water.

“We’ll do our best to make sure everyone is safe and sound, and save as much property as we can,” Assistant Fire Chief Jim MacDonald said Tuesday.

He said the water is filling up a slough and the flood plain and is “now encroaching on these homes.”

“It’s very difficult to repair anything in the river during a flood,” he said, so sandbags were used to temporarily protect one home Monday, and another will likely need the same protection today. The risk to the third home is “sketchy” at this time, he said.

But so far there has been no need to evacuate, as the water is rising slowly and the sandbags appear to be working.

About 50 firefighters and a crew from the BC Forest Service hauled the 8,000 sandbags, weighing 35 lbs each, into place Monday.

Fraser River flooding has not been expected this year, but shifting currents due to the movement of gravel bars and the resulting collapse of the bank has given the river another path of least resistance.

“The water goes where it wants to go,” MacDonald said. “It’s found a new way.”

And although the river’s water level is nowhere near the level it reached in 2007, it is still early in the flood season, he pointed out.

The snow pack that feeds the Fraser has not melted as much as usual because of the cool spring, he said, and “all it would take is a patch of warm weather” to speed up the melt “and we’d be in trouble.”

About 40 people, not including First Nations, live outside the dikes that stand between Chilliwack and the Fraser River.

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