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B.C. mayor hopes wildfire evacuees can return to Fort Nelson early next week

Firefighters working the Parker Lake wildfire, designated G90267 by the B.C. Wildfire Service, are seen in a staging area along Highway 97 looking south with a water bladder and fire hose set up among charred grassland in a May 15, 2024, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service Firefighters working the Parker Lake wildfire, designated G90267 by the B.C. Wildfire Service, are seen in a staging area along Highway 97 looking south with a water bladder and fire hose set up among charred grassland in a May 15, 2024, handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service
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The mayor of the regional municipality that includes Fort Nelson, B.C., that was evacuated due to a threatening wildfire says local officials are pushing for a Monday or Tuesday deadline to start allowing about 4,700 residents home after nearly two weeks.

Rob Fraser says the "imminent risk" posed by the Parker Lake fire has been reduced, and officials are focused on rolling out a phased approach to residents' return.

He says in a video posted late Wednesday that some doctors had returned to the community along with grocery staff who were restocking shelves.

Fraser says water, hydro and hydroelectric services were operational, and crews with FortisBC were in town examining the natural gas company's infrastructure.

The mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says officials were planning to reach out to the operators of "phase three" businesses this weekend.

Fraser says he was "extremely happy" to start thinking about an end date to the evacuation that began on May 10 as strong winds pushed the Parker Lake blaze to within about two kilometres of Fort Nelson.

"If it keeps going the way it's been going, we'll be making a call here on the weekend, I'm pretty sure of that," he said of the decision on when to lift the evacuation order.

Fraser said the Parker Lake fire was smouldering but appeared fairly "dormant."

"The wildfire crews continue to work away, any place that it's getting close to the edge, so they can be real comfortable they've got good containment and that it's wet along the edges," he said in Wednesday's video.

An update from the BC Wildfire Service on Thursday says conditions remained favourable for firefighting, although temperatures were rising and relative humidity was expected to drop. Winds gusts up to 30 kilometres an hour were also in the forecast, the service says.

Fraser said the Northern Rockies municipality is working with officials in Taylor, B.C., about 20 kilometres southeast of Fort St. John, where many evacuees have been staying, to set up a meeting for Fort Nelson residents ahead of their return home.

"We'll talk about the plan to return, what that looks like," he said, adding local officials were also in touch with the leadership at nearby Fort Nelson First Nation that was also evacuated.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2024.

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