June 12th, 2024

Videos show properties destroyed outside Fort Nelson, B.C., as rains favour firefight

By The Canadian Press on May 17, 2024.

An extreme fire warning sign is shown along Highway 97 toward Fort Nelson outside the Charlie Lake Fire Hall near Fort St. John, B.C., on Monday, May 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Boily

FORT NELSON, B.C. – Videos posted on social media show what appear to be multiple homes destroyed in the wildfire zone outside Fort Nelson in far northeast British Columbia.

The Facebook videos posted this week include scenes of large structures reduced to grey ash and twisted metal, scorched vehicles, and tall trees blackened by the side of the road.

One video posted Wednesday appears to show firefighters working to protect another home, with smoke shrouding the road.

Rob Fraser, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, which includes Fort Nelson, has said fire damaged some structures on rural properties outside the town, and emergency staff were working to contact owners.

He said the information was only released after the social media videos began appearing, and he didn’t want people to find out about damage to their property without being properly informed.

The person who posted the videos could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rainy weather in and around Fort Nelson has aided the fight against the fire burning 2.5 kilometres west of the town of about 4,700 residents who were ordered to evacuate on May 10.

Evan Peck with the BC Wildfire Service says a low-pressure system brought much-needed rain on Wednesday and Thursday, along with cooler temperatures and lower humidity, making for “excellent” conditions for fire suppression efforts.

In a video posted by the service late Thursday, the fire behaviour specialist said there had been minimal growth of the Parker Lake fire, which forced the entire community to flee as strong winds fanned the advancing flames.

The fire is now mapped at 123 square kilometres in size, slightly lower than an earlier estimate of 127 square kilometres on Thursday.

Peck said the weather had also dampened the much larger Patry Creek fire, a holdover blaze from last year that’s burning 25 kilometres north of Fort Nelson.

“Recent weather has reduced the fire behaviour to smouldering ground fire, preventing fire growth,” he said of the blaze that spans 718 square kilometres.

Peck said conditions should remain favourable over the next several days.

Still, he said it’s not enough to break the long-term drought in northeastern B.C.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Patry Creek fire isn’t an immediate threat to the town, but conditions can change rapidly if there are strong northerly winds.

Winds were expected to be northerly on Friday with an isolated risk of thunderstorms, the service said in another online update.

“While precipitation was received on portions of the Parker Lake wildfire and the Patry Creek wildfire, fuels are beginning to dry out as we head into the weekend,” the update says.

It says more than 100 wildfire service firefighters are responding to the fires, as well as about 60 structure protection firefighters and 19 helicopters.

The wildfire service is in the process of setting up a fire camp at the Fort Nelson airport, as they dig in for the long haul to get the fires under control.

B.C. officials, including Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, were expected to provide a wildfire update later Friday.

Fort Nelson, a community of about 4,700 residents, has been under an evacuation order since May 10, when winds fanned rapid growth of the Parker Lake fire.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

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