Eyes on the weather as residents pack and flee from fierce wildfire in northeast B.C.
An “incredibly intense” wildfire is just a few kilometres away from the British Columbia community of Tumbler Ridge, fire officials said Friday.
On Thursday, about 2,200 residents fled the community, on the foothills of the Rockies in northeastern B.C.
Tumbler Ridge Fire Chief Dustin Curry told a news conference that about 150 people remain in town.
Some are emergency personnel, while some are “residents that have refused to leave.”
BC Wildfire Service information officer Karley Desrosiers said the “aggressive wildfire” is threatening infrastructure, including power, cellphone service and roads. “That can be catastrophic, so I would say the message to those folks that have chosen to stay behind is that if it does become imminent and they choose to leave it can come down to it being too late to be able to escape safely,” she said.
Desrosiers said those who refused to leave should not count on being rescued.
“We won't put our folks in the line of fire or in imminent danger to rescue those that have chosen to stay behind,” she said.
Curry said the priority for emergency crews in Tumbler Ridge is to protect the town's critical infrastructure, including Tumbler Ridge's main water reservoir.
Officials say a wind shift on Saturday could change the direction of the out-of-control West Kiskatinaw River wildfire, helping the firefighting effort.
“Since this fire started, we have seen extreme fire behaviour, incredibly intense not only for this time of year, but just in general. We're seeing the fire growing with the wind, but also against the wind,” Desrosiers said.
Michelle Chisholm and her family had their bags packed with all the essentials, including camping gear, when the order to evacuate forced them to leave Tumbler Ridge on Thursday.
Chisholm, who has lived in the community for 10 years, said her dilemma was dealing with her horse since she doesn't have a trailer.
She said she had arranged with someone at the local saddle club to get it out, but then the highway to Dawson Creek was blocked off.
Chisholm put out a public plea for help moving her animal to safety.
“I just kept getting phone calls and phone calls of all these people who were willing to help, so that made me feel good that strangers were willing to help, like, no questions asked,” Chisholm said.
Chisholm, her husband and their two children are now staying with friends in Fort St. John, about 170 kilometres north, waiting out the evacuation order.
Once her family and their pets were safe, they could settle in for a “great weekend” with the friends hosting them, though her young children may not fully understand what's happening, she said.
“They know there's a fire, but they're not panicking. We just are making it as a fun road trip for them,” she said. “So, they were happy, you know, playing the whole time.”
Environment Canada says Tumbler Ridge and Dawson Creek are experiencing heavy smoke and temperatures almost 10 degrees above normal.
That could complicate efforts to fight the West Kiskatinaw River wildfire, which has burned 96 square kilometres of bush and timber east of Tumbler Ridge in the three days since it was discovered.
The BC Wildfire Service says the blaze is among just over 80 active wildfires in the province, including the two-square-kilometre fire that has closed the Vancouver Island highway connecting Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet to the rest of the island.
A four-hour, back-road detour allowing limited movement in and out of the area was also set to be closed for much of Friday as a vehicle was pulled from a lake.
“All travellers are urged to avoid travel along the detour route before, during and after the closure because commercial trucks will be queuing for passage,” the Ministry of Transport said in a statement.
Tofino Mayor Dan Law said food, fuel and other supplies are coming into his community and people who need to travel are finding their way out.
Still, he described the detour as a “long, very dusty, very dirty, windy road” that's seeing a lot of traffic, including some people driving in unsuitable vehicles.
“People in a car with passenger tires can expect to get a flat,” he said.
Law said he's in touch with provincial officials and expects the stretch of Highway 4 to reopen once the fire is sufficiently suppressed.
“The word that we have coming from the province is that Highway 4, the road itself, is in good condition. It hasn't been compromised,” he said.
In the meantime, local airlines have been adding flights and Law said he's encouraging people trying to get to Tofino to consider flying.
Winds have been pushing smoke from the wildfire that's burning east of Port Alberni away from Tofino, he added.
Bryce Moreira, the incident commander for the fire, told a media briefing that most of the growth is happening on the southern flank, away from the highway.
He said crews were also working on the western flank, nearest to Cathedral Grove, which is home to some of Canada's oldest and largest trees.
Moreira said 60 fire crews were working on the blaze, supported by several helicopters, with an additional 20-person unit crew set to join them later Friday.
At an unrelated news conference on Friday, Premier David Eby said B.C. residents need to be careful not just in the backcountry, but in any forested area, as the province faces the potential for significant wildfire activity this summer.
“Right now, conditions are very dry and we expect that to continue,” Eby said.
“Please use caution, so that we can try our best to avoid a catastrophic fire season.”
Neal McLoughlin, superintendent of predictive services for the BC Wildfire Service, told a media briefing on Thursday that more than 5,000 square kilometres have burned since the start of the season on April 1, a total he called “quite alarming.”
Fire bans, including campfire bans, now cover most of the province, although campfires are still allowed in the northwest and southeast corners of B.C. and on Haida Gwaii.
It's the earliest date that B.C. has restricted campfires, and the bans come as the unusually warm summer conditions set 20 daily high temperature records on Thursday, including a mark of 38.5 C in Lytton, making the Fraser Canyon community the hottest in Canada for consecutive days.
Environment Canada said rain was expected Friday and Saturday over much of southern B.C., with between five and 10 millimetres over much of the south coast by Saturday, while Interior forecasts called for around the same amount between Cranbrook and the Prince George area.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The federal Liberal government has made a lot of promises to Indigenous Peoples. But do those promises line up with what communities on the ground really want and need, or reflect their diversity?
A Scarborough family said they were shocked to get a notice from the City of Toronto that the artificial grass in their backyard, including a putting green, will have to be ripped out.
A new study finds walking an additional 3,000 steps per day can significantly reduce high blood pressure in older adults with hypertension.
Economists warn both Canada's economy and individual Canadians could suffer from impacts of a U.S. government shutdown, and that those impacts will deepen and broaden the longer it lasts.
Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Friday there was a 'climate of violence' and an 'atmosphere of intimidation' against Indian diplomats in Canada, where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi.
The country's top soldier and outside experts say that finding almost $1 billion in savings in the Department of National Defence budget will affect the Armed Forces' capabilities, although the defence minister insisted Friday the budget is not being cut.
A bail bondsman charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others in the Georgia election interference case pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on Friday, becoming the first defendant to accept a plea deal with prosecutors.
Last living suspect in 1996 drive-by shooting of Tupac Shakur indicted in Las Vegas on murder charge
A man who prosecutors say ordered the 1996 killing of rapper Tupac Shakur was arrested and charged with murder Friday in a long-awaited breakthrough in one of hip-hop's most enduring mysteries.
For the past five days, vehicles laden with refugees have poured into Armenia, fleeing from the crumbling enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in neighbouring Azerbaijan. In a special report for CTVNews.ca, journalist Neil Hauer recounts what it's like on the ground in Armenia.
Tech holding company Tiny Ltd. says it's buying a majority stake in movie review platform Letterboxd. Victoria, B.C.-based Tiny has not shared what it will pay for the 60 per cent stake it will take in the film diary and rating website.
B.C.'s Green Party leader is dismayed Alberta's fossil fuel “war room” is targeting Nanaimo for phasing out natural gas hookups.
The return of a memorial totem pole to a remote community in northwestern B.C. nearly 100 years after it was taken allows the Nisga'a Nation to reach back for old values of respect, helping to chart a new path of reconciliation, the nation's president says.
What started as a routine walk with her dog in the northeast Calgary community of Rundle on Sept. 17 quickly turned into an ordeal Aman Lamoureux will never forget.
A committee of experts tasked by the City of Calgary with providing downtown public safety recommendations is now beginning work on finding solutions to address addictions issues, housing concerns and crime.
Cathy Brodner got some unexpected visitors Thursday morning that were a little more photogenic than your run-of-the-mill backyard invaders.
Premier Danielle Smith says the first steps are coming this fall to reconfigure Alberta’s health delivery system — a plan the Opposition calls a recipe for more chaos from a government fresh off turning lab testing into a debacle.
A ceremony was held on Friday to mark the reopening of Edmonton's Queen Elizabeth Planetarium after years of restoration work.
A 39-year-old man who was recently released from jail with court-issued conditions was the subject of a public warning by Edmonton police on Friday.
An orphaned burgundy brick house sitting in the shadow of a midtown Toronto tower – one of the area’s last hold-out properties – sold for more than one million over asking this month.
The Toronto Blue Jays moved closer to securing a playoff berth Friday night with an 11-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Rogers Centre.
Three family members recently scored a major lottery prize and kept their win a secret from the rest of their loved ones.
The Societe de transport de Montreal (STM) is equipping special metro constables with a gel form of pepper spray to deal with violence. The irritant would be used "as a last resort in cases where safety is at stake," said an STM spokesperson in a statement Friday.
One person was arrested Friday as hundreds of protestors marched through the streets of Montreal to denounce the government’s response to climate change.
It's been a long wait, but six Ukrainian students who arrived in Quebec City to start school last month are finally in a classroom. The teenagers have been waiting for the education ministry to issue their eligibility certificates so they can study in English as they requested.
Manitoba finance officials are reporting a $270 million surplus for the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
A Winnipeg woman has pleaded guilty to handing out cannabis gummies to kids last Halloween.
A political expert says a new NDP candidate could change things in the Liberal stronghold of River Heights.
A Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) officer is facing charges in connection with two separate incidents.
Amid cries of support and criticism, the Saskatchewan government stays committed to expediting its plans to force a pronoun policy into law.
A Saskatoon woman is recovering after a harrowing incident in front of a city library in September.
Amid cries of support and criticism, the Saskatchewan government stays committed to expediting its plans to force a pronoun policy into law.
Two men have now been charged with attempted murder after a stabbing incident involving a machete in Moose Jaw, police said.
A Regina high school volleyball tournament is educating student athletes on Indigenous culture and reconciliation.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey made a solemn apology today to survivors of residential schools in southern Labrador.
Joshua Ghiringhelli is still be waiting to be fully licensed as a pharmacist in Nova Scotia almost a year after he moved to the picturesque rural community of Boutillier’s Point.
Every homeless person has a different story, no matter where they come from, and that is no different for Dianne Munnings from the Bahamas.
Suspect flees from police after uttering death threats, prompts 'code silver' at University Hospital
It was a tense night for police and hospital workers after a Norfolk County man who fled from police after uttering death threats attended a London, Ont. hospital, prompting a code silver situation.
'Your tip could make a difference': Owen Sound police, OPP renew appeal to public for information in restaurateur's homicide
Nearly six weeks after a violent assault claimed the life of a beloved restauranteur in Owen Sound, Ont., police are once again appealing to the public for information that could help crack the case.
Sarnia police have arrested a man after a violent attack nearly three months ago left an 81-year-old senior with 'life-altering injuries.'
A worker who was found unconscious Friday at the Cote Gold Mine site in Gogama has died, officials said Friday.
The man at the centre of a massive police search this week in Bracebridge has been found dead.
The North Bay Regional Health Centre said Friday that a critical shortage of emergency room doctors means longer wait times for less urgent cases.
'Still so many questions': Arrest in Joshua Tarnue murder case brings mixed emotions for family, friends
The family and friends of Joshua Tarnue are left with questions following new police developments in the murder case.
A number of events are being organized around Waterloo Region to mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Saturday Sept. 30.
A major development in a local infrastructure project has been unveiled by the province.