Wildfire mere kilometres from Fort Nelson city limits doubles in size again

The wildfire forcing thousands to evacuate from a northeast British Columbia town has doubled again in size as the blaze grows merely a few kilometres west of city limits.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Parker Lake fire near Fort Nelson, B.C., has reached almost 17 square kilometres in size overnight, up from the eight square kilometres reported late Friday.

The wildfire has also knocked out 911 service and disrupted telecommunications in Yukon and Northern B.C., with officials in the territory asking residents who need help in Whitehorse to go directly to the local RCMP detachment, fire halls or ambulances stationed at various parts of the city.

The Parker Lake wild fire was discovered Friday with a reported size of half a square kilometre at 5:25 p.m., but grew quickly to four square kilometres by 6:30 p.m. before expanding again.

The fire has forced the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and Fort Nelson First Nations to order evacuations in the area, with the region’s roughly 3,000 residents told to flee to Fort St. John some 380 kilometres to the southeast.

Fort Nelson is located in the far northeastern corner of B.C. about 1,600 kilometres from Vancouver.

The BC Wildfire Service says the blaze is suspected to be caused by human activity, adding the fire was “highly visible” from Fort Nelson.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality originally estimated the fire to be burning about 12 kilometres west of Fort Nelson, but BC Wildfire Service maps show the blaze’s coverage has reached about 6 kilometres west of city limits.

The regional municipality says evacuees travelling south are eligible for free fuel at Buckinghorse River Lodge, 176 kilometres south of the town on the Alaska Highway, with proof of Fort Nelson residency.

Environment Canada says rain is not in the forecast for Fort Nelson until Wednesday evening, with a 60 per cent chance of showers for that night and Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2024.

The Canadian Press