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Northeastern B.C. community of 2,400 ordered to evacuate due to wildfire

Tumbler Ridge, a community with a population of 2,400 in northeastern B.C., has been ordered to evacuate Thursday due to the danger posed by an encroaching wildfire.

The evacuation order, which was sent out using the province's emergency alert system, warns residents that the West Kiskatinaw River wildfire "poses a threat to human life."

Brandon Broderick, a Tumbler Ridge resident, said the evacuation order took him by surprise because there was no evacuation alert issued beforehand.

“So there was very little warning which we were kind of surprised about because the town seemed to know that the fire was heading our direction,” Broderick told CTV News.

He and his partner quickly packed up their two vehicles with their belongings, two dogs and three cats.

The blaze, sparked by lightning and discovered on Tuesday, is burning out of control and is estimated at 9,600 hectares. The BC Wildfire Service said Thursday that the fire has seen "aggressive growth" over the past 24 hours.

Broderick, a photographer, went to check out the blaze on Tuesday afternoon and was startled by how quickly flames spread when he went back that night.

“It had grown significantly in 10 hours or so since I had been there. And it's just continued to grow since. It's very windy so it's just feeling it is extra dry this year,” he said. “Seeing the big huge plume of smoke growing behind the house was a pretty surreal experience.”

Brandon Broderick, who has been forced to evacuate his home in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., took this photo of a wildifre near his community on Tuesday, June 6. (Photo submitted by Brandon Broderick)

He estimates there was a bottleneck of 20 to 30 vehicles on their way to Chetwynd from Tumbler Ridge.

In a post on the district's Facebook page, evacuees are being told to go a reception centre roughly 120 kilometres away in Dawson Creek, which is only accessible by one route – Highway 29. The other possible way out is Highway 52 which is closed because of the wildfire.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, flames will be fanned due to easterly winds which are preventing firefighters from suppressing the blaze from the ground and air.

A shift to westerly winds is expected Saturday.

As of Thursday in B.C., there were 82 wildfires burning across the province, and a total of 382 wildfires had sparked since April 1.

Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Bowinn Ma told reporters at a news conference that the 520,520 hectares burned so far this year already exceeds the total amount burned in 16 of the last 20 wildfire seasons in the province.

Ninety-nine per cent of the burned area has been in the Prince George Fire Centre in the northeast of the province.

Much of Canada and the United States is still grappling with poor air quality from what experts say could be one of the most devastating years for wildfires on record.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday Top Stories

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