Wildfires force northeastern B.C. evacuation orders but cooler weather expected

By The Canadian Press
April 18, 2016 - 11:05pm Updated: April 19, 2016 - 10:04am

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Three evacuation orders remain around the northeastern B.C. community of Fort St. John and at least one property was destroyed Monday when high winds and warm temperatures sparked wildfires. 

Peace River Regional District declared a state of local emergency Monday night, just hours after winds gusting to 80 kilometres per hour brought down power lines.

Unseasonably high temperatures of nearly 30 degrees added to the conditions, although fire information officer Amanda Reynolds of the Prince George Fire Centre said a cause of all the blazes had not been confirmed.

“This time of the year, most of our fires are human caused,” she said. “However, we have not had an origin and cause investigator and we do know that some fires have resulted from fallen power lines.”

The Peace River Regional District’s Facebook page said three structures have been lost, while Reynolds said one home had been destroyed.

The regional district did not immediately have estimates of how many people had been affected.

Residents of South Taylor Hill, Charlie Lake and Baldonnel were ordered out late Monday and early Tuesday, and several other neighbourhoods were placed on evacuation alert.

A reception centre was opened in Taylor, south of Fort St. John, where arrangements were being made to care for animals moved off evacuated farms.

“We have 21 fires burning in the Fort St. John zone and 16 fires burning in the Dawson Creek zone,” Reynolds said.

She said crews returned to the fire lines at first light Tuesday and requested heavy equipment and other resources to assist in the fight.

Environment Canada forecasts also provided some optimism, showing winds remain gusty but temperatures were expected to return to the mid-teens Tuesday, with rain due later in the week.

British Columbia’s wildfire season begins April 1, and the blazes in northeastern B.C., are earlier than usual, Reynolds said, but she couldn’t say if that means the 2016 fire season will be worse than normal.

“If we get expected rains in June, it could be a completely different story.”

The Canadian Press

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