The community of Kelly Lake, B.C., was issued an evacuation order on Sunday (Sept. 4) as the wildfire at Bearhole Lake continued its spread.
As of Tuesday (Sept. 6), the fire was still classified as out of control.
“The community of Kelly Lake remains under evacuation order due to the rate of spread, fire behaviour, and persistent winds up to 60km/hour expected over the next 72 hours,” said the B.C. Peace River Regional District (PRRD) on Monday (Sept. 5).
Kelly Lake is about 45 km west of Beaverlodge near the B.C. border.
The fire was first discovered on Aug. 31, according to the BC Wildfire service and as of press time was about 5,846 hectares in size.
As of Tuesday, BC Wildfire Services says 75 firefighters are currently on the ground, with 13 pieces of heavy equipment, four structure protection specialists, 43 structure protection personnel, and 16 helicopters are being shared between other wildfires in B.C.
The cause of the wildfire is believed to be lightning, says the BC Wildfire Service.
The wildfire is also impacting County of Grande Prairie residents.
The evacuation order covers five km north and south of Kelly Lake and four km west of the Alberta border.
County of Grande Prairie Regional Fire Service is currently monitoring the wildfire and has begun structural protection for a few properties near the B.C. border.
“The protection of residents and their homes is our number one priority. We are working closely with BC Wildfire and Alberta Wildfire to ensure we are as prepared as possible should this wildfire cross the border,” said the county in a media release.
“The BC Wildfire Service has been working diligently to slow the spread of the Bearhole Lake wildfire and protect structures in the community of Kelly Lake despite the continuing dry and windy weather throughout the region,” said PRRD.
Evacuees are reminded that they must register at Registration Centre to access Emergency Support at the Dawson Creek city hall or Beaverlodge Community Centre.
PRRD says that residents who evacuate to Alberta will need to pay for the expenses out of pocket and may or may not be reimbursed at a later date, but persons evacuating to Dawson Creek will be provided with lodging, food vouchers and incidentals.
On Sunday, the Rio Grande Sports Association posted on social media that the rodeo grounds are open and available for Kelly Lake and surrounding area evacuees and that some livestock can be accommodated there.
The PRRD reminded anyone needing support to evacuate pets or other animals to notify the PRRD Emergency Operations Center.
“Residents must not return to the community for any circumstances at this time, including to evacuate pets and other farm animals,” said PRRD.
Residents will not be able to return to the area until an evacuation rescind (cancellation) has been issued, but the PRRD encourages residents to monitor prrd.bc.ca and bcwildfire.ca for the most up-to-date information.
Highway 52 is closed until further notice between Boot Lake and Red Willow due to the fire.
“Air quality due to wildfire smoke can fluctuate over short distances and can vary considerably from hour to hour,” said the county.
“Members of the public are encouraged to check on family and neighbours who may be vulnerable to experience health effects from wildfire smoke.
“People may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors, and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.”
Alberta Health Services (AHS) recommends that people at risk close and lock all outside windows and doors, including attached garage doors, turn furnace fans to the minimum setting,
keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean on air-conditioners to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside.
AHS says that children and the elderly are at a higher risk of health impacts from air pollution, and individuals experiencing symptoms can call Health Link at 811 to speak to a registered nurse.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News