British Columbia

Mining town of Elkford, B.C., under evacuation alert with wildfires nearby

Two fires in the nearby Rocky Mountains have the small town under evacuation alert. That's a real concern for a community with only one highway connection out of town.

Schools closed and 3 coal mines getting ready in case the alert turns into an order

Teck Resources' Greenhills coal mine, pictured above, is located near Elkford. It is one of three mines under an evacuation alert Wednesday. (Giffels Westpro)

The town of Elkford, B.C., and its hundreds of residents and miners are ready to leave at a moment's notice.

As of Wednesday, they're under evacuation alert because of two fires in the nearby Rocky Mountains.

The town and its three coal mines have only one southbound highway in or out. Should the alert change to an order, that one road will quickly get congested, officials say.

Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher says he's confident residents can handle an evacuation, or even fires.

"By thinning out the trees and fire-safing our community our firefighters have an opportunity to go out and fight the fire in the bush before it gets close to the houses," said Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher. 

"In the last five or six years, we've been fire-safing our community as much as we could."

Schools closed, mines prepared

Both schools in Elkford were closed Wednesday morning and the school district's website says they will remain closed until further notice.

Justin Tichauer with School District #5 says it's a necessary precaution.

"We don't ever take that decision lightly. We know the stresses it puts out on families to not have students in school, but the safety of our students will always be our first priority," he said.

"An evacuation order could come at any time and we would have no ability to transport 400 students out of our buildings."

Teck Resources says there is no immediate threat to the 600 or so miners at its three mines in the area, but if that changes the company has a plan to get them out out fast.

The company said it will work with local emergency response professionals to make sure the highway isn't unnecessarily congested. 

With files from Bob Keating