Smoke is visible near Fort Nelson.

Smoke is visible near Fort Nelson.

Photo: Provided by Angela Klondike

Thousands of people in northeastern British Columbia were ordered to evacuate their towns and flee south Friday evening as a fast-growing wildfire approached Fort Nelson .

The evacuation order was announced by the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and Fort Nelson First Nation around 7:15 p.m., with residents urged to flee to Fort St. John, 380 kilometers away.

Communities were under threat from a major wildfire that the Municipality said was about 12 kilometers west of Fort Nelson, after it grew tenfold Friday evening.

Fort Nelson and Fort Nelson First Nation, in the far northeast of British Columbia, approximately 1,600 kilometers from Vancouver, have a total population of approximately 3,000.

THE BC Wildfire Service said the fire measured eight square kilometers and was very visible from the city, at a time when ground teams and nine helicopter pods were fighting to bring it under control.

In addition to firefighters from the forest fire service, members of the local fire department and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are involved.

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Immediate threat to life

The Municipality warned the population that the fire constituted an immediate threat to life, health and property.

Residents are advised to evacuate the area immediately and begin heading south toward Fort St. John, the release said. If you have an RV or your own vehicle, gas stations are provided along the route south.

The Municipality insisted that drivers should bring as many additional passengers as possible.

The fire grew quickly Friday evening. The Wildland Fire Service had said in a social media post at 5:25 p.m. that the suspected human-caused fire was half a square kilometer in size, but as of 6:30 p.m. the department’s website said It measured four square kilometers, before this area doubled again.

Less than two hours before the complete evacuation order, the Municipality ordered residents of the city’s western neighborhoods to gather at the community recreation center. This plan was quickly exceeded.

Cold and dry front

The fire was fueled by a cold, dry front that the Wildland Fire Service said was expected to pass through the Fort Nelson area mid-afternoon Friday.

kilometers per hour and change direction quickly”,”text”:”Although no lightning is expected during this period, wind gusts could exceed 70 kilometers per hour and change direction quickly”}}”>Although no lightning is expected during this period, wind gusts could exceed 70 kilometers per hour and change direction quicklythe service emphasized on Thursday.

He said the conditions were Likely to Contribute to Continued New Growth of Lingering Fires in the 2023 Seasonbut the fire threatening Fort Nelson is a new one, detected Friday.

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The BC Wildfire Service’s top priorities are the lives, health and safety of responders and the public. The Prince George Fire Center is actively working with municipal partners, industry and other government departments to ensure these priorities are achievedhe said.

The department said an incident management team would take command of the fire zone.

Alaska Highway closed

DriveBC announced that the Alaska Highway, also known as Highway 97, was closed due to the fire.

The Premier of British Columbia, David Ebywrote on the social media platform (thought) of those evacuated from Fort Nelson and Fort Nelson First Nation as wildfires grow near their communities.

BC Wildfire Service responds and we will work 24hours a day to support people”,”text”:”The BC Wildfire Service is responding and we will work around the clock to support people”}}”>THE BC Wildfire Service intervenes and we will work around the clock to support peoplehe added.

The Yukon government said Friday evening that the wildfire near Fort Nelson caused a 911 and telecommunications outage in the territory, affecting the internet, landlines and cell phones. He added that a geomagnetic storm could also compromise satellite phone communications.

Residents who need to report an emergency have been asked to go to the RCMP station or detachment, or to the nearest health center or hospital.

Hibernating fires

This forest fire comes a day after two hibernating fires, also called zombiesdating back to 2023, had resurfaced tens of kilometers from Fort Nelson.

The Nogah Creek and Patry Creek fires smoldered under snow until spring, according to Pedro Roldan-Delgado, a spokesperson for the BC Wildfire Service.

As of May 10, British Columbia has 119 active wildfires, but only 9 are out of control, including Nogah Creek and Patry Creek.

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