Fast-growing wildfire may hit Fort Nelson, B.C., today, officials say

13 May 2024
Fast-growing wildfire may hit Fort Nelson, B.C., today, officials say

Officials say the Parker Lake wildfire may hit the town of Fort Nelson in northeastern British Columbia on Monday morning, after it more than doubled in size on Sunday.

Fire behaviour specialist Ben Boghean of the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) said in a Sunday evening update that the blaze was threatening structures along the Alaska Highway west of Fort Nelson as of 3 p.m. PT Sunday.

He said winds are anticipated to increase Sunday evening and will remain elevated on Monday, with gusts up to 20 km/h.

“Our current fire behaviour projections show the community of Fort Nelson may be impacted during the morning of May 13th,” said Boghean.

Boghean said the fire is forecast to move along Highway 97 and toward the Fort Nelson First Nation and Muskwa area throughout the day on Monday, and is estimated to hit that area by 6 p.m. PT.

As of Sunday afternoon, the blaze was burning 2.5 kilometres west of the town, according to the BCWS.

The wildfire, which officials say was sparked by a downed tree on Friday evening, has resulted in an evacuation order being issued for the entire community of about 3,400 people, as well as the nearby Fort Nelson First Nation with a population of about 400 people.

The First Nation has issued an expanded evacuation order covering one home and “many cultural sites” on Sunday.

In a joint statement on Saturday, NRRM and Fort Nelson First Nation said people staying behind despite the evacuation orders should be aware that “emergency medical services are not available, nor are groceries or other amenities.”

Officials are urging anyone still in Fort Nelson, B.C. and the Fort Nelson First Nation to leave as an out-of-control wildfire grows closer to the community and could start burning buildings on Monday.

Cliff Chapman, B.C. Wildfire Service’s director of provincial operations, said Sunday evening people should avoid travel around the Fort Nelson area, noting highways in the area are closed and will likely remain closed for at least the next 48 hours.

“If you are still in Fort Nelson, or anywhere in the evacuation order of the Parker Lake wildfire, I encourage you to leave,” said Chapman.

“The fuels are as dry as we have ever seen. The wind is going to be sustained, and it is going to push the fire toward the community. Escape routes may be compromised and visibility will be poor as the fire continues to grow.”

Flames burned along the highway near the community in northeast B.C. as residents were told to evacuate on Friday night.

Rob Fraser, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM), told The Canadian Press on Sunday afternoon that there were about 37 households in Fort Nelson and another 28 in the surrounding rural area that have not heeded an order to evacuate, totalling between 100 and 150 people.

The municipality has relocated its emergency operations centre south of town, and it said the final buses out of the community would be leaving at noon on Sunday, at which point no further help would be available.

The CBC’s Yvette Brend spoke to evacuees in Fort St. John, after they drove six hours in smoky conditions to escape the raging wildfires in northeastern B.C.

According to the BCWS, the fire grew from 17 square kilometres in size on Saturday to about 41 square kilometres as of Sunday afternoon.

Boghean says winds are expected to calm on Tuesday, but the fire threat will remain until the region sees rainfall.

Fort Nelson is located near B.C.’s border with Yukon, about 800 kilometres north of Prince George.

Evacuees told to head south

Those fleeing the fire had to drive for nearly six hours south to Fort St. John — about 380 kilometres southeast of Fort Nelson.

Officials are urging anyone with the means to travel further to go another 440 kilometres south to Prince George, B.C., where a reception centre has been opened.

Those needing transportation are advised to call 250-775-0933, and the district says evacuees should register on the Evacuee Registration and Assistance website at

Rena Moore is one of the few people who stayed behind in Fort Nelson on Sunday, as her husband’s hotel is housing dozens of wildfire fighters responding to the blaze.

“If some of us weren’t here to help, feeding them … they’re not going to be able to fight for our community,” she told CBC News.

When the fire broke out, Moore was with her family to the northwest of it at Liard Hot Springs. She captured video of the blaze burning the forest along the highway on her way back to Fort Nelson.

A rapidly-advancing wildfire has forced residents of the entire community of Fort Nelson and Fort Nelson First Nation to evacuate. Smoke from the flames could be seen earlier in the day.

“You try to stay indoors just so that it’s not affecting your breathing and stuff,” she said on Sunday. “But … you see the haze through the trees. You hear the helicopters, and you see the planes flying.”

Moore said she hoped nobody would ever have to go through a wildfire evacuation as her community did — but she praised many northeast B.C. communities, like Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Chetwynd, for housing evacuees and being open amid a time of crisis.

Source: cbc

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