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'Do not rely on social media,' Fort Nelson mayor warns residents evacuated due to wildfires


As thousands of Fort Nelson, B.C., residents remain out of their homes due to the threat of wildfires, the municipality's mayor is warning the community to avoid social media rumours.

Rob Fraser, who is the mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, gave an update to evacuated residents Wednesday afternoon. More than 4,000 people were ordered to leave their homes on Sunday because of the encroaching Parker Lake fire.

Once the wildfire threat has dissipated, Fraser explained, the community's return will be a careful and potentially lengthy process.

"Do not rely on social media. Somebody told me they saw on social media, 'oh it looks really good we're going to come back tomorrow.' It's not going to happen," Fraser said, adding residents should watch for updates on the municipality's website or official Facebook channels.

After thorough safety checks are done, Fraser said part of the return process will include bringing the Emergency Operations Centre back to Fort Nelson so it can help residents locally. After that, utilities and essential services will need to be re-established.

"We've got to get these utilities back in place so we can use them," Fraser said. "Essential services include the hospital and medical services. It's going to take some time for the hospital to get back up and running."

Other services that need to be functioning before residents move back include seniors' support and retail, like grocery stores and pharmacies.

"That all has to be done in advance of us moving back ... so it necessitates a staged return, potentially," Fraser warned. "It's not just a matter of saying, 'OK folks, go home.' It's got to be a process and we're going to work through that process, we've never done it before, but we're going to do everything we can to work through that so it's efficient and smooth as the evacuation was."

As of Wednesday, BC Wildfire Service estimated the Parker Lake fire was 12,741 hectares in size. The Patry Lake fire, which began encroaching on Fort Nelson from the northeast, was an estimated 71,818 hectares as of Wednesday afternoon. Top Stories

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