B.C. wildfires: Plans underway for residents' return to evacuated town of Fort Nelson

FORT NELSON, B.C. — The mayor of the regional municipality that includes the evacuated community of Fort Nelson, B.C., says he's optimistic crews have "a very good handle" on the wildfire burning outside town and plans are underway for residents to return.

Rob Fraser says the first phase involved ensuring it was safe enough to move the Fort Nelson emergency operations centre back into town after it was moved as the fire threatened earlier this month, and the second phase involves utility services.

Fraser posted a video update late Tuesday saying hydro, natural gas and telecommunications crews were in town working to ensure the services are safely up and running.

The mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says officials were working to ensure hospital and ambulance staff are ready to return.

He says they will also contact the operators of essential businesses such as grocery stores and gas stations to return ahead of about 4,700 residents.

Fraser says recent rains have helped crews battling the Parker Lake fire that forced the evacuation of the town and neighbouring Fort Nelson First Nation on May 10.

The mayor says structure protection equipment is being moved into trailers where it can be quickly redeployed if the 123-square-kilometre blaze flares up again.

An update from the BC Wildfire Service says the area saw three to five millimetres of rain on Tuesday and conditions were favourable for firefighting on Wednesday.

But it says "hot spots continue to burn deep" in the Parker Lake fire and a larger blaze burning about 25 kilometres north of Fort Nelson. The rain hasn't been enough to ease the persistent drought gripping northeastern B.C., the service says.

A warming trend is expected heading into the weekend, it says, and areas east of Fort Nelson could see winds gusting up to 40 kilometres an hour on Thursday.

The wildfire service dashboard showed more than 100 active wildfires across the province on Wednesday with nine classified as burning out of control.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2024.

The Canadian Press