BC’s forest fire woes concentrated in the north

The Prince George Fire Centre — which includes the Peace/Liard region — continues to be the runaway wildfire leader this fiscal year.

It began on April 1, and, as of yesterday, the Wildfire Management Branch had posted a fire total this season of 779 — with 238 of them in the PG Centre, 93 more than the second place total of 145 in the Kamloops Centre.

Spokesman Kevin Skrepnek says lightning activity has been the cause of the majority of the fires, and authorities still have to add to their posted total what they call holdover fires.

“That’s when a lighning storm has come through, ignited something, but it’s not necessarily quite visible, quite active right off the bat,” he said.

“Up to a week later, we can see that flare up depending on how conditions play out.”

The province wide burn area is nearly 85,000 hectares, and more than 70,000 are located in the Prince George Centre, where there are currently 38 active fires of note.

The Little Bobtail Lake blaze, west of Prince George near Norman Lake, and the Dunedin River fire about 100 kilometres west of Fort Nelson account for more than half the centre’s burn area total, with estimates of 25,000 and 18,000 hectares, respectively.

However, there are now three dozen fires burning here in the Northeast, and the one of most concern — although covering about 3,700 hectares — is the Petitot River fire, about 115 kilometers northeast of Fort Nelson.

This is the one that prompted the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality yesterday to issue a local state of emergency and an evacuation order for about a 15 person PennWest oil and gas plant about ten kilometres east of the fire.

There’s also new concern about the safety of firefighters throughout the Prince George Centre as a result of a current dry, cold front passing through the region.

It features westerly winds of 30 kilometres per hour, gusting as high as 50, and in anticipation of extreme fire behaviour, firefighting activity is being conducted on a safety-first basis.

Elsewhere, Northern Saskatchewan continues to make major wildfire headlines, and despite more than 600 firefighters now in the region, one home and several remote area cabins have been destroyed.

More than 5,000 people have registered in emergency shelters after being forced to leave their homes by dense smoke, which satellite pictures have shown drifting as far south as Mississippi.