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High temperatures in B.C. pose ‘threat of new wildfires,’ wildfire service warns

Weather improves, but northeastern B.C. has not received enough precipitation to eliminate hazard

Rain and cooler temperatures in northeastern British Columbia will help suppression efforts for two out-of-control wildfires, but high temperatures forecast for later this week may pose a new threat, says a BC Wildfire Service spokesman.

Cliff Chapman, the director of wildfire operations, told a news conference Monday that the area has not received enough precipitation to “knock that hazard down.”

“The challenge with the return to above-seasonal temperatures is that it won’t only challenge us on the current fires, it’s the threat of new wildfires being started as well,” he said.

Evacuation orders or alerts remain in place for much of the areas surrounding the Red Creek and Boundary Lake fires, about 1,300 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

In its latest update, the B.C. Wildfire Service reported the Boundary Lake fire was an estimated 5,900 hectares. The fire at Red Creek sits at 2,800 hectares.

The fires are burning on either side of the city of Fort St. John.

Matt Troiano, Fort St. John’s deputy fire chief and director for the city’s Emergency Support Services, said about 100 evacuees have been helped at a reception centre in the city so far.

“We have some cooler weather, less wind, and we’re hopeful that this is going to help slow down the progression of the wildfires and get people back into their homes sooner,” he said.

The wildfire service said crews have made significant progress on the Boundary Lake fire thanks to cooler temperatures and higher humidity, and containment lines have been constructed around the fire.

Troiano said dense smoke from both nearby wildfires as well as from fires in Alberta had blanketed the city since the end of last week. But he said air quality “had definitely improved” after a recent dip in temperatures and rain Sunday night.

The Peace River Regional District downgraded some areas around the Boundary Lake wildfire from an evacuation order to an alert Sunday night, but an evacuation order for properties in the Red Creek and Lower Cache areas remains in place.

The regional district said 27 homes are still under an evacuation order for the Boundary Lake wildfire and 239 homes are under an alert.

Sixty one properties remain under an evacuation order for the Red Creek wildfire, and 247 properties are under an alert.

Peace River Regional District chair Leonard Hiebert said in a statement Sunday that the wildfire situation remains volatile and people need to stay out of areas that have been evacuated to avoid putting lives at risk.

“We appreciate that it’s important to allow residents to return home as soon as it is safe, so we’re happy to be able to share this update, recognizing that with wildfires, the situation can change quickly.”

In a provincial wildfire status update Monday, the service said there are a total of 62 active wildfires across B.C., but 91 per cent of those are under control or being held. The majority of active fires, and all wildfires of note, are in the Prince George Fire Centre.

It said wildfire crews are also supporting flood responses in the southern interior and Grand Forks region, and a 16-person incident management team has been deployed in Alberta to help with the fire response there.

READ MORE: Out-of-control wildfires in northeastern B.C. expected to worsen due to strong winds