Early wildfire start burns down home near Fort St. John

By Chad Klassen
April 19, 2016 - 5:10pm

KAMLOOPS — It's just a month into spring, but if you look at the wildfire situation around the province, it's feeling a lot more like summer. 

The unusually hot conditions are being blamed for the start of over 40 wildfires around B.C., many of them in the northern part of the province. On Tuesday, residents in the Peace River Regional District remain on alert, as grass fires, fanned by strong winds, are cause havoc early in the season near Fort St. John. 

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The fire, burning at 9,500 hectares right now, has already claimed a home.  

"During a call this morning, there was a mention of one building in the Kelly Lake area that was destroyed as a result of the fire," says Peace River Regional District Chief Operating Officer Chris Cvik. 

According to B.C.'s chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek, it's been a "pretty extraordinary 24 hours in northeastern B.C. A really significant weather system moved through early Monday afternoon with very intense winds, and then we've had some hot and dry weather, some record-breaking temperatures there."

The wildfires prompted several evacuation orders and alerts that remain in effect, part of a state of emergency issued by the District.

"There are four evacuation alerts and orders in place, most of them clustered around Fort St. John, not in the city itself but in the surrounding suburbs, as well as in the District of Hudson's Hope," says Skrepnek. 

Closer to home, record-breaking temperatures has people flocking to the beach in Kamloops. It also means the grasses in the hills are drying out quickly.

Right now, there are four active wildfires in the Kamloops Fire Centre, including the biggest, a 92-hectare fire that's in the mop-up stages near Merritt.

But if the fire in Fort St. John is any indication of conditions, people in the Thompson region need to be cautious with an earlier start.  

"In the last few years, we've had the season kick off more into May, so yeah I would say this is a few weeks ahead of time," says Skrepnek. "In terms of fire behaviour we're seeing, it's more along the lines of what we would normally be encountering in the core summer months, July and August."

To this date, already over 10,000 hectares of land in B.C. has been burned.    

Cooler temperatures are expected later this week, but with the high fire risk up north, the Prince George Fire Centre is prohibiting open burning starting on Wednesday at noon to prevent any more human-caused wildfires. 

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