Wildfires have prompted the City of Fort St. John, B.C., to tell all of its roughly 21,000 residents to get ready to leave on short notice, while the Peace River Regional District has issued an evacuation order for a large rural area to the north.
The Stoddart Creek wildfire discovered on Saturday has grown to 130 square kilometres in size, and the BC Wildfire Service says it continues to spread.
The nearby Red Creek fire measures about 29 square kilometres, and the service says human activity is the suspected cause of both out-of-control blazes.
Doig River First Nation north of Fort St. John has issued an evacuation order, telling residents to leave right away — although its bulletin urges people to stay calm, saying the community is not in imminent danger and the order is a precaution.
An unusual May heat wave has spurred rising wildfire risks in both B.C. and Alberta, with close to 40 communities breaking daily high temperature records on Sunday.
Environment Canada heat warnings and advisories cover parts of both provinces as temperatures push into the high 20s and low to mid-30s.
As of Monday night, more than 19,000 people in Alberta have been forced from their homes, with 24 of nearly 90 active wildfires in the province classified as burning out of control.
An evacuation order has meanwhile been expanded across a large swathe of the regional district north of Fort St. John, while an alert has been issued for all residents of the District of Taylor, a nearby community of about 1,300 people.
The evacuation alert from Fort St. John says all residents need to prepare to leave on short notice because of the fire’s potential danger to life and health.
The wildfire service lists the Stoddart Creek blaze as one of five wildfires of note in the province, all near the Alberta boundary, with three burning out of control.
Around 17,400 Albertans have been forced from their homes because of wildfires as of Monday. There were close to 90 active fires in that province, with 25 listed as burning out of control.
There were close to 60 active wildfires in B.C. on Monday.
Indigenous Services Canada says the Blueberry River First Nations were evacuated of about 200 residents on Sunday due to the Stoddart Creek fire and sent to Fort St. John, where an emergency reception centre for evacuees is operating in the town’s North Peace Arena.
Now, that city’s alert notification says residents should pack essential items, fill their vehicle’s gas tank, and seek help if they need assistance transporting anyone.
“Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however, you may receive limited notice due to changing conditions,” it says.
Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management and climate preparedness, says in a tweet that “now is the time” for all residents of Fort St. John to get ready for an evacuation, adding they should “stay alert and prepared.”