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'Tremendous amount of fire': Crews continue to face challenges in northeastern B.C.

CTV National News: Fight continues in Fort Nelson
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The BC Wildfire Service provided an update Sunday on conditions in the northeastern part of the province, highlighting the challenges posed by ongoing drought and unstable weather.

Incident commander Hugh Murdock said while the fires burning closest to Fort Nelson – which forced thousands to evacuate – are getting the most attention, the region as a whole is seeing “a tremendous amount of fire.”

In total, roughly 2,500 square kilometres are currently burning, he said. The Parker Lake and Patry Creek fires, which are closest to the community and are being battled by 130 firefighters, only account for about a third of that total area.

“The summer is going to be a long one, I think,” Murdock said. “It’s had an early start again and there seems to be just so much fire on the landscape so early and it’s not just going to be lightning that gives us our starts but these holdover fires.”

Holdover fires are ones that sparked last year, have been smoldering throughout the winter and reignited this spring.

Eric Kopetski, a fire behavior specialist, says one of the biggest challenges for crews is the ongoing drought which has resulted in a lot of downed or danger trees.

“The fire’s getting under these trees and we have to clear them to get it out and it’s taking a lot of time and effort,” he said.

The primary concern in the coming days is the potential for thunderstorms, which can bring lightning as well as strong winds.

“This weather, combined with dry fuel conditions, may result in elevated fire behaviour, increased rates of spread and new wildfire starts, which may challenge suppression efforts,” according to the BCWS’ provincial situation report for Sunday.

Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Fort Nelson Sunday. 

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