The Donnie Creek wildfire has grown into the largest blaze ever recorded in British Columbia, BC Wildfire Service said Sunday.
The fire, which is burning south of Fort Nelson in northeastern B.C., is now estimated at more than 5,343 square kilometres in size.
It surpasses the Plateau fire that charred 5,210 square kilometres northwest of Williams Lake in 2017 and was previously considered the province’s largest fire.
The Donnie Creek wildfire is one of about 80 fires burning across the province.
B.C. Wildfire Service Information Officer Marg Drysdale said crews are focused on protecting infrastructure and the Alaska Highway, but expect the blaze to continue to grow throughout the summer.
“We will have crews on it into the fall. It is an ongoing event,” she said in a telephone interview.
The service lists the fire as out of control, noting that it is highly visible and may pose a threat to public safety. It said 250 BC Wildfire Service personnel, including 152 firefighters, are working to control the blaze.
“Our crews are working on areas where they believe they can have the best results and it would lessen the impact to people in infrastructure in the area,” Drysdale said.
She explained the fire was started by lightning but is currently the result of about eight fires that grew quickly and merged into one blaze.
“It’s really important for people right across the province to understand that we have not hit the fire season that we normally see in July and August,” she said.
“We’re in the middle of June. If conditions continue as they have, if we get a hot summer, we are going to see more impacts.”
This comes as the Peace River Regional District cancelled its evacuation order for Trutch and the surrounding areas, meaning residents can return home.
Earlier Sunday, the district also rescinded its evacuation order for the One Island Lake community, which is impacted by the 250-square-kilometre West Kiskatinaw wildfire.
Though the district said people from that area may return home, an evacuation alert remains in place so they should continue to be prepared to leave on short notice.