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New wildfire in B.C.'s central Interior sparks evacuation order in parts of Cariboo

Smoke from a wildfire is shown crossing a road in British Columbia in this undated handout image provided by the BC Wildfire Service. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service (FILE) Smoke from a wildfire is shown crossing a road in British Columbia in this undated handout image provided by the BC Wildfire Service. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service (FILE)
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VANCOUVER - A new out-of-control wildfire in British Columbia's Interior sparked a mandatory evacuation order and forced firefighters to carry out a tactical evacuation on one property over the weekend.

A spokeswoman with the Cariboo Fire Centre says all residents near the Tzenzaicut Lake wildfire are under an evacuation order after the blaze was discovered in the area located approximately 600 kilometres north of Vancouver on Saturday afternoon.

Jessica Mack said on Sunday crews have been using heavy equipment and aerial resources to combat the growing blaze.

She added first responders did have to specifically notify the residents of one property within the remote, sparsley populated evacuation zone - located west of Highway 97 between Quesnel and Williams Lake - to leave immediately due to the threatening fire.

An area surrounding the evacuation area, located south of the community of Baker Creek, has also been placed on alert as the Tzenzaicut fire doubled to one square kilometre in size by Sunday morning.

Mack said the Tzenzaicut wildfire - likely sparked by lightning or another natural mean - saw “a bit of increased activity” Sunday morning, but officials are optimistic that rain in the forecast on Monday and Tuesday could mitigate the blaze.

B.C. also continues to battle a number of major wildfires in both the Cariboo and Peace River regions, but changing wind directions and cooler weather helped fightfighters temper those blazes over the weekend.

In the Cariboo, the Pelican Lake wildfire that's raging 300 kilometres west of Tzenzaicut Lake has been upgraded to a “wildfire of note.”

However, an evacuation alert that covered the nearby communities of Anahim Lake and the Ulkatcho First Nation was lifted by Sunday afternoon.

The fire, also at about one square kilometre in size, has not grown since Friday.

In the Peace River Regional District, which is 1,200 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, crews are battling two out-of-control wildfires near the city of Fort St. John, although the cooler and wetter weather in the last few days has given firefighters a chance to fortify its defence lines.

BC Wildfire Service said crews were able to carry out a planned 20-square-kilometre controlled burn near Highway 97, significantly boosting defences against the possibility of the Stoddart Creek fire moving southwards again when wind direction is forecasted to shift again by Sunday evening.

“Now that we've really secured that line along the highway, we can put some more of our crews up in the north area (of the fire),” said spokesperson Forrest Tower about the Stoddart Creek fire, which is now covering 266 square metres.

Tower said officials are optimistic that rain that's in the forecast on Monday and Tuesday could mitigate the blaze.

Two of the other three major fires in the Boundary Lake and Cameron River areas have been held by crews and not expected to grow further. A third fire near Red Creek is still out of control but may be reduced to being held in the coming days, Tower said.

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for Fort St. John for Monday and Tuesday, after weeks of dry, warm weather brought a rash of wildfires to the region over the last two weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2023.

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