Fire near Fort Nelson grows to almost 2,500 hectares

The Parker Lake fire close to Fort Nelson continues to grow, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

Since Saturday, the blaze has expanded another 800 hectares, now being listed at just under 2,500 hectares.

Officials say the fire has forced nearly 3,500 residents to evacuate.

In an update posted early Sunday, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM) is warning all remaining residents to leave as fire risks “have escalated to a greater level.”

The service says it’s been extremely windy and dry in the area, contributing to the fire’s growth. The wind has decreased as of Sunday morning, but it’s expected to pick up later this week, with an incoming weather system bringing strong winds from the west.

In a separate situation, an evacuation alert was upgraded to an evacuation order just after 11 a.m. for the 15,000-hectare Fontas-area fire, southeast of Fort Nelson.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says the wind “has the real potential to significantly increase the size of the fires over the next 48 hours,” and Fort Nelson’s emergency operations centre itself is relocating south later today.

Structure protection personnel in Fort Nelson and neighbouring communities are beginning to construct a structure defence plan for the Old Alaska Highway community.

On Saturday, NRRM Mayor Rob Fraser said the wildfire started when a tree blown down by strong winds fell onto a power line.

Smoke from the Parker Lake fire has spread into Alberta, bringing poor air quality and reduced visibility while that province deals with multiple fires of its own, including one burning out of control near Fort McMurray that has communities on evacuation alert.

With files from The Canadian Press.