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
Swan River RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed five people. Investigators believe the vehicle was travelling northbound when it went off the road, and that speed was a factor in the crash.
Parks Canada says a bear attack in Alberta's Banff National Park has left two people dead. Officials say a response team trained in wildlife attacks was immediately mobilized but weather conditions at the time did not allow for helicopter use.
Federal prisoner with terminal illness granted parole on compassionate grounds to die outside of jail
A terminally ill federal prisoner, who has been fighting for a compassionate release to die outside of jail, has been granted day parole.
When it comes to uncouth, uncultured and downright unacceptable behaviour on ships, experts in travel etiquette and cruising have seen it all. They share plenty of bad behaviours for passengers to avoid (and good ones they should emulate).
A recent study has found 1 in 20 people in the U.S. who contracted COVID-19 used non-evidence based treatment, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, due to beliefs in vaccine-related misinformation.
Ontario residents can now access treatment and medication for six more common ailments at pharmacies across the province.
Ex-justice minister calls Nazi invite result of 'failure of indifference and inaction', supports unsealing Deschenes Commission records
A former federal justice minister says the 'failure of indifference and inaction' over Canada's history with Nazis in the country likely contributed to Parliament's unknowing recognition of a Nazi veteran in the House of Commons last week, and that he wants to see nearly 40-year-old documents on suspected war criminals living in Canada unsealed.
A group of orcas that inhabit Canadian waters are known to harass and kill porpoises without eating them. A new study tries to explain why.
A swimmer drowned in Thetis Lake Friday afternoon, according to West Shore RCMP.
'Reconciliation is a lifelong experience': Gov. Gen. Mary Simon reflects on Truth and Reconciliation
On the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon says that while she acknowledges the time it takes to fulfill calls to action, she also understands the frustrations that progress is too slow, and she feels 'we should speed things up.'
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.
Calgary Flames vice-president of data and analytics and assistant general manager Chris Snow has died of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
In the last year, Canadian green groups have lodged at least four formal complaints with the Competition Bureau, alleging false or misleading environmental claims by fossil fuel companies or -- in the case of a complaint against RBC -- those who finance them.
Defenceman Quinn Hughes has been a very good player for the Vancouver Canucks during the last four seasons.
From a new garden on the Alberta Legislature Grounds, to cultural performances and history lessons – people in the Edmonton area marked the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with different events over the weekend.
Britain's new defense secretary has suggested that British military training of Ukrainian soldiers, which currently takes place in U.K. bases, could move into western Ukraine.
More than 100 tenants at 1440 and 1442 Lawrence Avenue West will go on rent strike Sunday joining the ranks of nearly 500 residents who have been withholding payments since early summer.
A man has been hospitalized following an overnight shooting in a Mississauga parking lot.
A gunshot victim checked themselves into a local hospital on Sunday afternoon after a shooting that police believed occurred a day earlier in Etobicoke.
Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, the University of Montreal Hospital (CHUM) is bringing back its mask mandate starting Monday. The rule applies to anyone entering a patient’s room or care area—including visitors, staff and physicians, a CHUM spokesperson confirmed in a statement to CTV News on Saturday.
The radio system used by Montreal police and firefighters suddenly stopped working overnight, cutting off communication for about two hours.
Members of several Quebec public-sector unions are continuing to vote in favour of strike mandates by large margins.
As the Oct. 3 provincial election fast approaches, a wide range of identification options and advances in technology are making it easier than ever for Manitobans to vote.
RCMP continue to search for suspects after a fatal hit-and-run near Dugald, Manitoba.
Saskatoon police are warning the public about alleged fraudsters identifying themselves as police officers as part of a grandparent, or emergency scam.
A Prince Albert hockey team wore a special jersey at their opening game to raise money for cancer and honour a prominent member of the local sports community.
In Saskatoon, this important day began with a remarkable display of unity as thousands of individuals came together for the "Rock Your Roots Walk."
'Take away a greater understanding': Events held in Regina for National Day of Truth and Reconciliation
The colour orange was a common colour donned on Saturday, as hundreds braved the rainy conditions to take part in the third National Truth and Reconciliation Day.
On Saturday, Regina's German community celebrated Oktoberfest, an event held at the German Club.
As artificial intelligence dominates the public interest, some experts fear we don't understand the true climate impact of these models.
A basketball tournament in New Brunswick is honouring a player who passed away in a canoeing accident four years ago.
RCMP in Nova Scotia say they have arrested a man on a province-wide arrest warrant on Saturday.
It’s been a trying year for farmers in Nova Scotia, with record cold, dry weather and an abundance of rain taking a toll on the harvest, but apples seem to be doing just fine.
Huron County OPP is investigating after a seasonal cottage was allegedly wrecked by vandals causing more than $100,000 in damage.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has determined there are no charges to issue against a London police officer after a man was seriously injured during his arrest this past June.
North Bay, Ont. is currently home to a man who was honoured with a standing ovation in the House of Commons during a visit from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, but whose presence in Parliament later caused global outrage and embarrassment when details emerged about his past as a Nazi soldier during the second World War.
Highway 144 is fully reopened Sunday morning after a two-vehicle crash Saturday evening in the Greater Sudbury community of Chelmsford, police say.
Sentencing in a hit and run trial, a Cambridge encampment being cleared, and some big changes for CTV Kitchener round out the most-read stories of the week.
A driver is facing speeding charges after allegedly telling Ontario Province Police, “I am running late for my tee time.”