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Wildfire evacuees will be allowed to return to Fort Nelson, B.C., Monday: officials

Food and animal supplies are available for evacuees at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John, B.C., on Monday, May 13, 2024. Wildfires are forcing more people to evacuate their homes in dry and windy northeastern B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Boily Food and animal supplies are available for evacuees at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John, B.C., on Monday, May 13, 2024. Wildfires are forcing more people to evacuate their homes in dry and windy northeastern B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Boily
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Thousands of people who were forced to flee their homes due to a wildfire burning out of control near Fort Nelson, B.C., will be allowed to return Monday, according to officials.

An update Sunday from the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality said the evacuation orders triggered by the Parker Lake wildfire will be lifted at 8 a.m.

“Please note that though the order is being lifted and it has been deemed safe to re-enter the community … there are still active fires in the area. As such an evacuation alert will remain in effect until such time as the risk has been eliminated,” reads a notice on the NRRM website.

The evacuation orders were issued by the NRRM as well as the Fort Nelson First Nation two weeks ago and impacted roughly 3,700 people. Officials confirmed last week that four homes were destroyed by the blaze and an additional six properties were damaged.

The emergency department at Fort Nelson General Hospital will also reopen Monday, Northern Health has announced.

Some hospital staff have already returned to the community to conduct safety tests, re-stock supplies and clean the facility.

The emergency room will open with “limited” laboratory and medical imaging services, while the other departments in the hospital will start running again “in the weeks ahead,” the health authority said in a media release.

Northern Health says 11 patients and care residents were evacuated from the hospital and sent to other facilities in northeastern B.C. on May 10.

The municipality reminded returning residents to be patient on the road home, as there will be lots of traffic, and to top up their fuel and bring a few days worth of food and supplies. Buses returning to Fort Nelson are scheduled for Tuesday.

Electricity has been restored and tap water is safe to drink, the municipality said. However, there is still wildfire smoke in the area so residents are asked to stay indoors and keep hydrated.

A reception centre has been set up at the Recreation Centre Community Hall where residents can pick up cleaning kits from the Red Cross and access various supports.

More information for residents returning to Fort Nelson can be found on the NRRM website.

As of Sunday morning, the Parker Lake wildfire, which is the closest to Fort Nelson, was about 123 square kilometres in size and burning out of control.

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