Forest fire | Thousands forced to evacuate in Fort Nelson, B.C.

(Fort Nelson) Thousands of people in northeastern British Columbia were ordered to evacuate and flee south Friday evening as a fast-growing wildfire approached the town of Fort Nelson.

The evacuation order was announced by the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and Fort Nelson First Nations around 7:15 p.m., with residents urged to flee to Fort St. John, 380 kilometers away.

Communities were threatened by an out-of-control wildfire that the municipality said was about 12 kilometers west of Fort Nelson.

Fort Nelson and the Fort Nelson Indian Reserve, in the far northeast of British Columbia, approximately 1,600 kilometers from Vancouver, have a total population of approximately 3,000.

The BC Wildfire Service said the fire measured eight square kilometers and was “highly visible” from the city, as ground crews and nine helicopter pods battled to control it.

The service indicates that in addition to firefighters from the forest fire service, members of the local fire department and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are involved.

The municipality warned that the fire posed an “immediate threat to life, health and property”.

“Residents are advised to evacuate the area immediately and begin heading south toward Fort St. John,” the release said. If you have an RV or your own vehicle, gas stations are provided along the route south. »

The municipality insisted that drivers should bring any additional passengers possible.

The fire grew quickly Friday evening. The Wildland Fire Department had said in a social media post at 5:25 p.m. that the suspected human-caused fire was half a square kilometer in size, but as of 6:30 p.m. it was listed on the department’s website as measuring four square kilometers, before this area doubled again.

Less than two hours before the complete evacuation order, the municipality ordered residents of neighborhoods to the west of the city to gather at the community recreation center. This plan was quickly exceeded.

The fire was fueled by a cold, dry front that the Wildland Fire Service said was expected to pass through the Fort Nelson area mid-afternoon Friday.

“Although no lightning is expected during this period, wind gusts could exceed 70 kilometers per hour and change direction quickly,” the service said Thursday.

He said the conditions were “likely to contribute to continued new growth of the 2023 season’s persistent fires,” but the fire threatening Fort Nelson is a new fire, detected Friday.

“The BC Wildfire Service’s top priorities are the lives, health and safety of responders and the public. The Prince George Fire Center is actively working with municipal partners, industry and other government departments to ensure these priorities are met,” he said.

The department said an incident management team will take command of the fire area.

DriveBC reported that the Alaska Highway, also known as Highway 97, was closed due to the fire.

British Columbia Premier David Eby wrote on social media platform of their communities.”

“The BC Wildfire Service is responding and we will be working around the clock to support people,” he added.


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