Fire crews make 'good progress' fighting human-caused blaze in central B.C. wildfire
Firefighters in the B.C. Interior have made what the BC Wildfire Service calls “good progress,” in battling a rural blaze authorities believe is human caused, that grew some 20 times larger in just a few short hours.
The Lejac wildfire, along an area south of Highway 16 and roughly 5 kilometers east of the Village of Fraser Lake, has swallowed up some 260 hectares.
As of Sunday afternoon, Mike Pritchard with the Prince George Fire Centre said fire crews had managed to create guards, or fuel breaks, using machinery around 70 per cent of the fire, and were anticipating the fire would be fully surrounded by Sunday evening.
A local state of emergency remains in effect, with some areas south of Highway 16 under an evacuation order since late Saturday. In addition, as of Sunday afternoon, some 40 homes were under an evacuation alert, which means residents must be ready to leave at a moment's notice.
Gerry Thiessen, board chair with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, said even though winds died down overnight, the big concern is a change in the weather pattern arriving Sunday into Monday.
“We’re just holding firm,” he said. “We’re hoping and praying that the wind change this afternoon won’t be significant and that we’ll be able to get the fire contained.”
Videos from social media Saturday showed an eerie plume of smoke that kept growing, as an air tanker dropped fire retardant on the north and south flanks.
“This fire sounds like a fricking freight train,” said a Facebook-user with the name Beverly Ketlo. “It is so loud.”
Environment Canada Meteorologist Chris Emond said a big low pressure centre moving into the Gulf of Alaska will mean more seasonable temperatures for the province, and could bring the potential for showers to the Interior.
That pattern, which is expected to last for the next seven to 10 days, will also bring the risk of thunderstorms, though Emond said it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly where at this point.
Pritchard cautioned with the coming wind change to the west, the smoke may sit on Fraser Lake, but said residents shouldn’t be concerned about the fire itself.
Fraser Lake is about 150 kilometers west of Prince George.
The Prince George area has had a much drier-than-normal spring, with just 29 per cent of normal rainfall in March and 56 per cent in April.
“It’s still really dry out there,” Pritchard said. “Until we get some moisture to change it around, which I hope is coming.”
Much of the province remains under a moderate or high fire danger rating, with some small pockets rated as extreme.