British Columbia

Evacuation orders lifted as firefighters make progress on central B.C. wildfire

Firefighters in central British Columbia have made significant progress in containing a wildfire burning west of Prince George on Sunday, during the busiest weekend this year for the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Wildfire near Fraser Lake and Lejac now categorized as held

The B.C. Wildfire Service has been battling a wildfire in the Lejac area east of Fraser Lake this weekend. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

Firefighters in central British Columbia have made significant progress in containing a wildfire burning west of Prince George on Sunday, during the busiest weekend this year for the B.C. Wildfire Service.

The service said it was notified of a wildfire burning near Fraser Lake and Lejac, along Highway 16, around 3 p.m. PT Saturday.

The fire, estimated at 260 hectares as of Sunday morning at 10 a.m., prompted evacuation orders and alerts in the area. Officials said it didn't spread overnight. 

As of Sunday evening, that fire was categorized as being held. An evacuation order for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako was also downgraded to an alert late Sunday night.

"The crews on scene have made great progress today," said Molly Blower, an information officer with the Prince George Fire Centre. 

The fire is now 50 per cent contained, she said. Blower said 70 per cent of the fire is being guarded by machines and the other 30 per cent of the fire is being guarded by natural fuel breaks.

Much of the smoke has dissipated, she said, but the wind is expected to shift Sunday night and could push any remaining smoke toward Fraser Lake. 


Earlier in the day, Gerry Thiessen, chair of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, said he was "encouraged" by the status of the fire. 

State of emergency

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako called a state of emergency and issued an evacuation order for all properties south of Highway 16 to Roys Lake, west and east of Seaspunkut (Lejac).

Thiessen said the area has a few properties but not many residences. He couldn't say for sure but he didn't think any people were forced to leave.

Residents of Fraser Lake B.C. watch smoke billow up from a wildfire on Saturday. (Sarrah Storey)

The district also issued an evacuation alert for the area South of Highway 16 to south of Klez Lake and east of Drywilliam Lake. Thiessen said he thought about 40 people were in that area.

'Impressive' flames

Fraser Lake Mayor Sarrah Storey told CBC News on Saturday night that the fire was visible from the community and described the flames as "impressive."

She also said that several people in her community were surprised to see a fire like this so early in the season.

Residents in Prince George said Saturday evening they could smell smoke from the fire and see a hazy horizon at sunset.

Other fire activity

Fire officials in B.C. say the weekend has been the busiest of 2019 with several fires of note breaking out in the northern part of the province, along with central B.C. and the southern Interior.

On Sunday, a concerning fire began east of Kamloops which can be seen from Highway 97 and Highway 1.

Kevin Skrepnek, chief information officer for the B.C. Wildfire Service, said on Sunday that the fire is close to some structures, but crews and air tankers are making progress on the six-hectare fire.

Skrepnek said five days of hot dry weather leading up to the weekend resulted in conditions that helped spark wildfires. All of the fires the service is dealing with are human caused, he said.

"Most of these fires are preventable in one shape or form so [we] definitely want people to be vigilant out there." 

Although it's busy already, Skrepnek said that doesn't necessarily mean the summer months will be bad. He said the amount of rain that falls between now and Canada Day is the best predictor of potential fire activity in July and August.

With files from Chad Pawson


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