China Nose wildfire: evacuation order expanded in northwestern B.C.
B.C.'s Highway 16 closed due to wildfires; expected to reopen in 1 or 2 days
A new evacuation order has been issued near the small community of Houston, B.C., as the raging China Nose wildfire draws ever closer to homes and property.
Residents of approximately 60 rural properties southeast of Houston have been told to leave their homes "due to immediate danger," while a wider area has been put on evacuation alert.
The China Nose fire, burning out of control 15 kilometres southeast of Houston, has grown to 4,000 hectares since being discovered Monday.
Ground crews on Thursday created containment lines to the north, west and east of the fire. Helicopters dropped buckets of water on Friday.
On Wednesday, a state of local emergency was declared and 19 properties near Houston were put under an evacuation order. B.C. Parks also ordered the closure of Old Man Lake Provincial Park to all recreational uses.
Bill Miller, chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, which issues the orders, has seen wildfires prompt evacuations before. The last serious wildfire, in 2010, saw flames eat up stands dry pine trees and creep close enough to homes to cause concern. This year, conditions are drier still, and the fire has so far been fierce and unpredictable.
"It's a little more of a volatile situation," Miller told CBC News Friday morning.
Reception centres for displaced residents have been set up at the College of New Caledonia in Burns Lake and at Houston's municipal office.
Miller hopes the evacuation order that went into force this morning will get everyone to safety, before tonight's expected cold front brings winds of up to 40 km/h, which could fan the flames and spread the fire.
Highway 16 closed, area restriction in effect
The fire's uncontrolled growth also led to the closure of a 34-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 between Burns Lake and Topley, to the east of Houston, which went into effect at 6 a.m. PT Friday.
"An alternative route will be available via Colleymount/Morice roads, except to oversize/permitted traffic," DriveBC's online service said.
The highway, which connects Prince George with Prince Rupert, is expected to remain closed for 24 to 48 hours.
Last Thursday night, the Northwest Fire Centre barred use of recreational areas around the fire — making McKilligan, Swan Lake, Heading Creek, Poisent Creek and Gilmore Lake forest service roads and portions of the Thompson Creek Forest Service Road north of Maxan Lake off-limits to anyone without written authorization.
Chelaslie Fire grows
Meanwhile the Chelaslie River wildfire, burning near Entiako Provincial Park since early July, had grown to an estimated 107,000 hectares on Friday. Near the end of July, officials closed the park and issued an evacuation order.
With files from the CBC's Luke Brocki