Wildfire near Fort Nelson, B.C., caused by wind blowing tree across power line: mayor

By CityNews staff and The Canadian Press

The mayor of a northeast British Columbia town says a tree blown down by strong winds fell onto a power line and started the fast-growing wildfire that forced the evacuation of thousands in Fort Nelson, B.C.

Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Rob Fraser says most of the area’s 3,500 residents have been evacuated since the Parker Lake fire broke out 12 kilometres west of Fort Nelson, but police are knocking on doors to ensure everyone got out.

Fraser says there have been two other wildfires further from town prior to the latest blaze, and much attention had been on the smoke generated in the two fires further from Fort Nelson.

“Then right close to the community, we saw this other one, this third fire kick up yesterday afternoon, and the fire was very dark, or the smoke was very dark,” he said.

“It was going very high in the air from the community, so you could see that something was going on.”

An update from the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says the fire situation “remains volatile and fast-moving.”

Officials urged any remaining residents of Fort Nelson to evacuate, while the fire has also shut down landline and 911 services in places such as the Yukon and triggered air quality advisories in Edmonton.

Emergency supports available

Emergency supports are now being made available to evacuees.

The Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness says accommodations, food, and other services are now available at reception centres in Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, among other locations for those needing to travel further.

The province says it is urging those who can stay with family or friends to ensure there is enough commercial accommodation in the area for people who don’t have the option.

A disaster psychosocial support team has been deployed to provide short-term help to people affected by emergencies.

Wildfire mere kilometres from Fort Nelson city limits doubles in size again

The wildfire forcing thousands to evacuate from a northeast British Columbia town has doubled again in size as the blaze grows merely a few kilometres west of city limits.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Parker Lake fire near Fort Nelson, B.C., has reached almost 17 square kilometres in size overnight, up from the eight square kilometres reported late Friday.

The wildfire has also knocked out 911 service and disrupted telecommunications in Yukon and Northern B.C., with officials in the territory asking residents who need help in Whitehorse to go directly to the local RCMP detachment, fire halls or ambulances stationed at various parts of the city.

The Parker Lake wild fire was discovered Friday with a reported size of half a square kilometre at 5:25 p.m., but grew quickly to four square kilometres by 6:30 p.m. before expanding again.

The fire has forced the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and Fort Nelson First Nations to order evacuations in the area, with the region’s roughly 3,000 residents told to flee to Fort St. John some 380 kilometres to the southeast.

Fort Nelson is located in the far northeastern corner of B.C. about 1,600 kilometres from Vancouver.

The BC Wildfire Service says the blaze is suspected to be caused by human activity, adding the fire was “highly visible” from Fort Nelson.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality originally estimated the fire to be burning about 12 kilometres west of Fort Nelson, but BC Wildfire Service maps show the blaze’s coverage has reached about 6 kilometres west of city limits.

The regional municipality says evacuees travelling south are eligible for free fuel at Buckinghorse River Lodge, 176 kilometres south of the town on the Alaska Highway, with proof of Fort Nelson residency.

Environment Canada says rain is not in the forecast for Fort Nelson until Wednesday evening, with a 60 per cent chance of showers for that night and Thursday.

With files from Cole Schisler and Raynaldo Suarez.

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