Return to school delayed in Hudson's Hope as crews battle nearby wildfire

·4 min read
An evacuation order is in place in the western part of Hudson's Hope, while other areas are under evacuation alert, due to an ongoing wildfire about 50 kilometres west of the community.  (Prince George Fire Centre - image credit)
An evacuation order is in place in the western part of Hudson's Hope, while other areas are under evacuation alert, due to an ongoing wildfire about 50 kilometres west of the community. (Prince George Fire Centre - image credit)

Students in Hudson's Hope were staying home Tuesday and delaying their start to the school year for another week as wildfire crews in B.C. continue to monitor a nearby wildfire.

Crews have made some progress over the long weekend battling the Battleship Mountain wildfire, but according to Sarah Hall, a fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service, it is still burning over an area of 100 square kilometres — almost the size of the City of Vancouver — and is considered a wildfire of note.

A wildfire of note is one that is particularly visible or poses a threat to public safety.

"The Battleship fire is estimated at 11,949 hectares," Hall told CBC's Daybreak North on Tuesday.

"We were expecting some large winds to impact the fire yesterday, and we didn't see that happen. So we're still expecting to see some slightly weakened winds today."

Submitted by B.C. Wildfire Service
Submitted by B.C. Wildfire Service

Hudson's Hope has declared a local state of emergency and issued evacuation orders for a western section of the district.

Hall said the growth of the fire has been minimal over the weekend, but Tuesday's weakened wind could cause it to grow quickly.

"The head of the fire has gone into a northeast direction, so it's hit the shoreline of the Wellington Lake fire," she said. "But we'll continue to monitor it today."

Delay to school start

Hall said about 48 firefighters and six structure protection personnel are working on fighting the Battleship Mountain Wildfire — located approximately 50 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope.

The wildfire delayed the start of the school year for many students in the region on Tuesday.

"The issue is ... they need every staff back in the building to really come up with a good plan in case there was an evacuation order," Nicole Gillis, a school board trustee for School District 60, told CBC's The Early Edition.

She said staff are meeting with the Emergency Operations Centre and the district fire chief to come up with a plan in case students are at school when an order to evacuate is issued.

Elsewhere in northeast B.C., the Bearhole Lake fire near Tumbler Ridge was still burning out of control Tuesday, and DriveBC says Highway 52 is closed between Kelly Lake Road and Stone Creek Road until further notice due to the blaze.

B.C. Wildfire Service
B.C. Wildfire Service

The B.C. Wildfire Service said the Dinosaur Lake fire, located about 14 kilometres southwest of Hudson's Hope, was now under control.

The Peace River Regional District upgraded an evacuation alert to an evacuation order Sunday evening for the community of Kelly Lake.

B.C. communities under evacuation order/alert

The order covers the town, which lies four kilometres west of the Alberta border, as well as an area five kilometres north and south of the community.

Evacuation alerts mean residents must be ready to leave their homes at a moment's notice. An evacuation order means a resident should leave immediately.

More orders and alerts

In southwest B.C., the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District downgraded an evacuation order issued Saturday to an evacuation alert for five district lots and several recreation sites and trails in the Lillooet area near the Downton Creek fire.

Further east, smoke advisories issued by Environment Canada due to fires burning locally and south of the border were lifted, but a portion of E.C. Manning Provincial Park south of Highway 3 remains under an evacuation order.

Two fires are burning in the park — the Fat Dog Creek fire north of the highway, and the Heather Lake fire, which originated in the U.S.

In a Monday night update, the wildfire service said the Heather Lake fire "has the potential for aggressive and rapid growth."

B.C. Wildfire Service
B.C. Wildfire Service

Crews there are preparing for its potential impact on Highway 3, as well as trails and campsites in the park.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said the Fat Dog Creek fire is no longer considered a wildfire of note, even though it is highly visible from Highway 3.

Fire officials said the fire isn't threatening any infrastructure and does not currently need to be suppressed — though they are actively monitoring the situation with B.C. Parks.

Environment Canada said there was a risk of thunderstorms for the Cariboo, Prince George, North Peace and Stuart-Nechako regions overnight — a concern, according to officials, given over 70 per cent of fires this year have been sparked by lightning.