Wildfires near Fort St. John, Prince George prompt evacuations

April 19, 2016

By: CBC News

The Peace River Regional District in northern B.C. has declared a state of emergency due to several forest fires in the area.

The district said about 48 wildfires were burning in the region Monday night.

Evacuation orders and evacuation alerts have been issued for parts of the Baldonnel community near Fort St. John, as well as at Charlie Lake.

The Blueberry First Nation reserve north of Fort St. John was also evacuated and residents were sent to Taylor, where an emergency reception centre has been established.

The City of Fort St. John said the fire destroyed three structures in the area.

DriveBC reported Highway 29 has been closed in both directions from Bear Flats to Halfway River Bridge because of a fire.

The fire danger is high for Fort St. John (and extreme for parts of Alberta) because of the dry weather of late, said the B.C. Wildfire Service. The city was under a special weather statement for strong wind gusts Monday night that could help fan and spread the flames.

The fire had Baldonnel residents scrambling earlier on Monday afternoon.

“Coming home from town, there was a lot of smoke,” said Christy Jordan-Fenton, adding there was almost no visibility as she drove away.

“I got through just before they closed that road and are evacuating those farms.”

Jordan-Fenton said she was concerned about the fire spreading to a nearby storage facility for oil and gas tanks, which she said is about three to four kilometres away from the fire.

She said it was 28 C and windy in the area, and there was a lot of dry crop land nearby.

Resident Garth Fenton said he was trying to get home but was stopped at a road block. He said the wind appeared to be blowing away from the tank farm for the time being.

Fenton said there was a lot of smoke in the area, and neighbours were trying to help each other out.

Prince George residents forced to flee

Residents of an upscale neighbourhood in Prince George returned home Monday night after a wildfire forced them to flee.

Police said 10 to 12 homes in the Valleyview area were evacuated Monday afternoon when the fire started at about 4:30 p.m. PT, but the flames were under control later in the evening.

Cpl. Craig Douglass with Prince George RCMP said firefighters would remain in the area throughout the night.

The fire caught many in the neighbourhood by surprise.

“I called my wife to let her know I’m coming home, and she said, ‘I’ve got the kid, I’ve got the dog, I’ve got the hard drive and there’s a fire in our yard, so we’re out of here,'” said resident Michael Jansa.

Officers told Jansa and his family they should be allowed back into their home tonight after they make sure the wind doesn’t pick up and spark it again.

“We’re just hoping there’s not too much smoke damage so we can stay in the house,” he said.

Sharla Olsen was home when she saw the flames quickly advancing towards her and her children.

“Flames right to the tops of the pine trees in the backyard and they were coming pretty fast through the neighbour’s yard,” she said. “So we grabbed the kids and drove away.”

“We had not a lot of time to leave, but enough.”

Fires across northern B.C.

RCMP have been warning people about several wildfires burning around and southeast of Fort St. John.

“Police want to caution the public of heavy smoke and fires in a number of areas,” said Dawson Creek Sgt. Mike Richard.

“With the high winds the area is currently experiencing, be extremely cautious in these areas as these fires are or can be fast moving.”

Richard said one of the wildfires in the East Pine area of Highway 97 has jumped the highway heading north, and a large forest fire east of Kelly Lake is getting closer to the Alberta border.

He said there are also two grass fires west of Dawson Creek.

Meanwhile, on the northwest side of the province,  the B.C. Wildfire Services says it responded to six new wildfires near Burns Lake on Monday.

By: CBC News

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