FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John in northeastern British Columbia has issued an evacuation alert telling all of its approximately 21,000 residents to get ready to leave in response to a wildfire that’s grown to more than 130 square kilometres in size.
An update from the BC Wildfire Service Monday afternoon says the Stoddart Creek wildfire was burning out of control and continuing to spread.
The fire has previously triggered evacuation alerts and orders for other properties in its path in the Peace River Regional District since it was discovered on Saturday.
The blaze, which the wildfire service says is suspected to be human-caused, has scorched the traditional territories of the Blueberry River First Nations, Doig River First Nation and Halfway River First Nations near the boundary with Alberta.
Doig River issued an evacuation order on Monday, telling people to leave right away and head to a designated evacuation point in Dawson Creek, although the bulletin says the community is not in imminent danger and the order is a safety precaution.
An evacuation order has meanwhile been expanded across a large swathe of the regional district north of Fort St. John, while an alert has been issued for all residents of the District of Taylor, a nearby community of about 1,300 people.
The evacuation alert from Fort St. John says all residents need to prepare to leave on short notice because of the fire’s potential danger to life and health.
The wildfire service lists the Stoddart Creek blaze as one of five wildfires of note in the province, all near the Alberta boundary, with three burning out of control.
Around 17,400 Albertans have been forced from their homes because of wildfires as of Monday. There were close to 90 active fires in that province, with 25 listed as burning out of control.
There were close to 60 active wildfires in B.C. on Monday.
Indigenous Services Canada says the Blueberry River First Nations were evacuated of about 200 residents on Sunday due to the Stoddart Creek fire and sent to Fort St. John, where an emergency reception centre for evacuees is operating in the town’s North Peace Arena.
Now, that city’s alert notification says residents should pack essential items, fill their vehicle’s gas tank, and seek help if they need assistance transporting anyone.
“Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however, you may receive limited notice due to changing conditions,” it says.
Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management and climate preparedness, says in a tweet that “now is the time” for all residents of Fort St. John to get ready for an evacuation, adding they should “stay alert and prepared.”
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