Driven by winds, wildfires result in evacuation orders in southwest and northeast B.C.

·4 min read
The Bearhole Lake fire, near the B.C.-Alberta border, as seen on Friday. The fire has resulted in an evacuation alert for the community of Kelly Lake in northeastern B.C. (B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)
The Bearhole Lake fire, near the B.C.-Alberta border, as seen on Friday. The fire has resulted in an evacuation alert for the community of Kelly Lake in northeastern B.C. (B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)

Concerning wildfires in both southwest and northeast B.C. have resulted in evacuation orders, with high winds forecast to continue into Monday.

The Battleship Mountain wildfire in the Peace River region grew overnight, driven by wind gusts of up to 50 km/h, according to fire officials. It is currently burning over an area of 105 square kilometres.

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

It is one of a number of concerning fires in northeast B.C. The Bearhole Lake fire near Tumbler Ridge is also growing, with the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) upgrading an evacuation alert to an evacuation order Sunday evening for the community of Kelly Lake on the B.C.-Alberta border.

The order covers the town, four kilometres west of the Alberta border, plus an area five kilometres to the north and south of the community.

PRRD officials say people leaving the area can register to access emergency support services at Dawson Creek City Hall in B.C. or at the Beaverlodge Community Centre in Beaverlodge, Alta.

There are two suggested evacuation routes, one on Highway 671 and another on Highway 52 East.

B.C. communities under evacuation order/alert — Sept. 4


Sarah Hall, a fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service, said the region could be seeing wind speeds of 70 km/h by Monday — something she described as "very extreme."

"This area [Peace River region] in particular has remained relatively dry," she said on Sunday afternoon.

"It's posing some accessibility challenges," she added. "Right now, crews are working on developing access and egress routes to safely find a path to work in the fire area."

While the Battleship Mountain fire is seeing growth on its northeast flank, Hall said the growth was not in the exact direction of Hudson's Hope. However, she said it is anticipated to grow in size throughout Sunday.

In addition, she said the Bearhole Lake fire would likely result in impacts for Highway 52 near the Alberta border, and encouraged drivers to check DriveBC for the latest updates.

Thirteen firefighting helicopters are being used throughout northeastern B.C. to fight various fires, including the Dinosaur Lake fire, another "fire of note" near Hudson's Hope. A wildfire of note is one that is particularly visible or poses a threat to public safety.

However, Hall said crews are making excellent progress on that fire, as well as smaller fires like the Moberly River and Hasler Flats fires.

Wildfire conditions to continue in September

"We are seeing temperatures still six to eight degrees higher than [the] seasonal average for this time of year," said Karley Desrosiers, another fire information officer.

"We did have temperatures reach 38 degrees in some areas last week, which means that humidity levels are quite low, especially for this time of year."

Desrosiers also said relatively stable weather conditions mean there is little opportunity for wildfire smoke to dissipate. Air quality advisories due to smoke are in place for much of southeast B.C.

Environment Canada
Environment Canada

In addition, a severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the Cariboo, Prince George, and Stuart-Nechako regions — a concern, according to Desrosiers, given over 70 per cent of fires this year have been sparked by lightning.

She said temperatures are expected to drop next week, but the wildfire service would be looking for "holdover fires" — fires that are lit, but remain smoldering until they are whipped up by drier, windier weather.

"We are expecting fewer new wildfires but certainly monitoring the ones that are active and that are being influenced by current conditions," she said.

Evacuation orders in provincial park

In southwest B.C., evacuation orders are in place for properties in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District due to the Downton Creek fire.

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.

In addition to the communities being impacted by burning fires, a portion of E.C. Manning Provincial Park south of Highway 3 is also on evacuation order.

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

"On Saturday, they decided to close the Windy Joe's Trail out of safety," said park manager Vern Schram on Sunday. "It was more of a precautionary measure."

"We have the structural protection units on site from the Ministry of Forests just looking at future situations right now."