British Columbia

Wildfires near Fort St. John in northeast B.C. affect highways, cut power

Wildfires in northeast B.C. have claimed one home and several outbuildings. Several evacuation orders, alerts and local states of emergency remain in place.

Officials say 37 new wildfires started last night, some believed to have been set intentionally

Smoke drifts near Fort St. John, B.C. Several highways have been closed in the area because of wildfires. (Brett Hyde)

Several highways around Fort St. John in northeast B.C. still have travel advisories in effect because of wildfires burning in the area. 

DriveBC says Highway 97 near Taylor and Highway 52 near Dawson Creek have been reopened after they were closed due to the threat of wildfires close to the road. A travel advisory has been issued for Highway 97 and Highway 29 because of poor visibility caused by smoke.

BC Hydro reports 16 hydro poles have burned, causing 2,800 customers to lose power north of Fort St. John. (BC Hydro)

BC Hydro says the majority the wind and wildfire-related outages in the Peace Region have been restored, although 1,200 are still without power. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Bob Gammer, a spokesman for BC Hydro, said fires had burned through 16 power poles. 

smoky skies advisory has been issued for Fort St. John and the surrounding area. 

Gavin King, a meteorologist with the B.C. Ministry of Environment, said shifting winds expected Tuesday evening could spread the smoke farther. Residents in the area are encouraged to avoid strenuous outdoor activities and to contact a health-care provider if they experience difficulty breathing  or chest pain. 

Homes threatened

The wildfires in northeast B.C. have claimed at least one home and several outbuildings in the farming town of Baldonnel, near Fort St. John.

Baldonnel farmer Arthur Hadland told CBC News he could see flames as high as 50 metres from his bedroom window.

"It's all around us, everybody that lives up here is concerned," said Hadland. "It's exceptionally dry and the wind is unbelievable. It's sort of unprecedented in recent memory."

Baldonnel, B.C., resident Dori Bedier surveys the damage to parts of her property. A wildfire came within a few minutes of burning her home, but firefighters managed to save it. (Brett Hyde)

Ninety homes in Baldonnel, Charlie Lake, and South Taylor have been evacuated, and hundreds more are under an evacuation alert, with residents told to be ready to leave at a moment's notice.

37 new fires Monday night

The B.C. Fire Centre says 37 new fires started in the Peace River district Monday night, spurred by record high temperatures, strong winds and dry farmland.

"We've got 21 fires in the Fort St. John zone, and 16 fires currently in the Dawson Creek zone," said Prince George Fire Centre information officer Amanda Reynolds. "Crews are heading out to those fires this morning."

A wildfire burns outside of Fort St. John, B.C. (Darcy Shawchek/Facebook)

Reynolds said some of the new fires appear to have been set deliberately. 

Police in Prince George confirmed a wildfire in a residential district of the city was started by two boys, age nine and 12, who were attempting to light a campfire with matches.

About 40 people were forced to evacuate the neighbourhood Monday afternoon.

A shed, patio and several backyards were burned before crews were able to put it out. Residents were allowed to return to their homes late last night.

Transport Canada took to Twitter to warn people against flying drones near wildfires. Drones are considered a serious threat to water bombers, hampering the efforts of crews to get fires under control.

"Don't get burned. Keep your #drone away from the forest fires in #FortStJohn," read one of the tweets.

With files from Betsy Trumpener and Karin Larsen