An out-of-control wildfire in central British Columbia has prompted a local state of emergency and several evacuations.
According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, the fire — which is about five kilometres east of Fraser Lake — is 260 hectares in size and is 50-per-cent contained.
The blaze has forced the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to declare a state of emergency, which has been in place since Saturday night.
District chair Gerry Thiessen tells NEWS 1130 he’s “encouraged” that the fire didn’t grow overnight.
“But certainly, a long ways from it being contained to any degree,” he says. “I guess our concern is that right now, the winds are down. [Saturday], when the incredible growth happened, the winds were just really difficult so that has been a good thing that overnight, with the 20 workers that were on the site, that they were able to work with that.”
Winds are expected to pick up Sunday afternoon, he notes.
“Depends how windy it is and how brisk the wind is as to whether it will be contained as the evening comes on,” Thiessen adds.
Blower echoes some of his concerns.
“That means there will be smoke highly visible in the community of Fraser Lake [Sunday] evening and overnight,” she says.
The district has also ordered people living in the area near Lejac to leave.
Meantime, an evacuation alert is in place for a larger area, meaning people there have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
Thiessen has said he’s struck by just how early the wildfire season has started this year.
“Well certainly the fire came up quite quickly. It started out small. With the wind it gathered momentum.”
The Lejac wildfire was discovered on Friday, May 3rd, and 40 firefighters are being assisted by two helicopters and several pieces of heavy equipment.
A number of communities around B.C. saw record-breaking temperatures this week, including Vanderhoof and Burns Lake — which are on either side of Fraser Lake.
The area on fire is described as being a mixture of both grass and timber.
Despite some rain in the forecast on Tuesday for the region, Thiessen says “significant precipitation” is needed.
“We’ve gone since almost Christmas — very early in January — since we’ve had significant snowfall. So we need to get moisture into the ground.”
Thiessen is urging anyone who plans to be in the backcountry to take extra care due to the dry conditions.
The wildfire is believed to be human-caused, but that is still under investigation.