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Rain brings 'excellent' conditions for crews battling northern B.C. wildfires

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A rainy day in and around Fort Nelson, B.C., was what fire crews were hoping for as they continue to battle a wildfire burning 2.5 kilometres outside the town.

Evan Peck with the BC Wildfire Service said a low-pressure system brought much-needed rain over the last two days, along with cooler temperatures and lower humidity, making for "excellent" conditions for fire suppression efforts.

In a video posted by the service late Thursday, the fire behaviour specialist said there had been minimal growth of the Parker Lake fire, which forced the entire community of 4,700 residents to evacuate last Friday as strong winds fanned the advancing flames.

The fire is now mapped at 123 square kilometres in size, slightly lower than an earlier estimate of 127 square kilometres on Thursday.

Peck said the weather had also dampened the much larger Patry Creek fire, a holdover blaze from last year that's burning 25 kilometres north of Fort Nelson.

"Recent weather has reduced the fire behaviour to smouldering ground fire, preventing fire growth," he said of the blaze that spans 718 square kilometres.

Peck said conditions should remain favourable over the next several days.

Still, he said it's not enough to break the long-term drought in northeastern B.C.

The wildfire service is in the process of setting up a fire camp at the Fort Nelson airport, as they dig in for the long haul to get the fires under control.

B.C. officials, including Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma, were expected to provide a wildfire update later Friday.

Fort Nelson, a community of about 4,700 residents, has been under an evacuation order since May 10, when winds fanned rapid growth of the Parker Lake fire.

Rob Fraser, the mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, which includes Fort Nelson, has said fire has damaged some structures on rural properties outside the town, and emergency staff were working to contact owners.

The BC Wildfire Service says the Patry Creek fire isn't an immediate threat to the town, but conditions can change rapidly if there are strong northerly winds.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2024.

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