Wildfire in B.C.'s Peace region doubles, no rain expected for relief

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HUDSON'S HOPE, B.C. — The BC Wildfire Service says a fire in British Columbia's Peace region has grown out of control due to high winds, noting temperatures are expected to increase and no precipitation has been forecast for the area.

Information officer Sarah Hall said Sunday the Battleship Mountain fire has doubled in size to 2.4 square kilometres since Friday after being sparked by lightning on Aug. 30.

Dry conditions have persisted for about five weeks, she said, adding crews are working to protect critical infrastructure, including the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and a wooden bridge, while trees in danger of falling are being assessed.

The District of Hudson's Hope has asked residents who were ordered to evacuate on Saturday to register in person at an arena in Fort St. John, about a one-hour drive away, while those not needing services are being advised to call the reception centre to inform officials they are safe.

The district said in a release that lodging options may include hotels, campsites or billeting and support including food may be provided at the reception centre.

A spokesman for Emergency Management BC says an estimated 1,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

The wildfire service says another wildfire, about eight kilometres east of Bearhole Lake, is also classified as out of control and estimated at 63 square kilometres. It says windy conditions on Saturday contributed to its growth.

It says an evacuation alert remains in effect and the blaze was expected to generate more smoke on Sunday.

DriveBC says Highway 52 has been closed between Boot Lake and Red Willow.

Five wildfires around the province are considered notable, contributing to smoky skies and poor air quality around the Metro Vancouver area.

Fire information officer Sam Bellion said B.C. is in the midst of a longer-than-usual fire season due to temperatures that are higher than the average expected for this time of year.

"We're not getting the amount of temperature drops overnight or the relative humidity recoveries, or the precipitation that we might otherwise be looking forward to at the end of a long season," said Bellion.

However, Bellion said over 75 per cent of the 191 fires currently burning in the province were caused by lightning and that fewer people have been involved in starting blazes this year.

Data on the wildfire service's website says 59 per cent of the 670 wildfires in B.C. in 2020 were caused by people, the highest percentage recorded since 2008. That compares with one-third of 2,117 fires attributed to human activity in 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 11, 2022.

The Canadian Press