New wildfire burning just off Alaska Highway

A team of 61 firefighters, along with an airtanker and helicopter, are rushing to contain a blaze burning just off the Alaska Highway south of Fort Nelson.

Wildfire officials say the Big Beaver Creek fire was discovered on Sunday, and is burning about 2.5 kilometres west of Mile 250 of the highway. The fire was sparked by lightning and has spread to about 125 hectares in size.

“The fire is being heavily actioned by air tankers to establish protection lines, and we have 61 firefighters working on that with the primary objective to protect highway and work on containment,” said Erin Catherall, a fire information officer working out of the Fort Nelson Fire Zone.

No structures are at risk from the fire, Catherall said, adding southwesterly winds have kept the fire from spreading any closer to the highway.

Still, if you’re travelling in the area, expect localized smoke conditions as two other fires continue to burn around Fort Nelson.

One of those includes the Akue Creek fire, first discovered on Canada Day about 20 kilomteres southwest of Fort Nelson, and which has now grown to about 880 hectares in size. Crews continue to assess the fire today.

“There was a lot of smoke in Fort Nelson over the weekend (due to the fire),” said Catherall.

“But it’s not an immediate threat to the community.”

Hot and dry conditions continue to persist in the northeast, said Catherall.

At least 10 millimetres of rain is needed to help quell the 30-plus fires burning in the area, but that kind of relief does not appear to be in sight.

The forecast in the Fort Nelson area for today calls for sun with some scattered showers, but the rest of the week is expected to be warm and windy.

Catherall says firefighting crews are bracing for a warm front and a cold front to meet and collide over the region on Thursday, which will create warm conditions with plenty of gusting winds to fuel and spread the fires.

“Our big message right now for the public is to be extra cautious when in the back country,” said Catherall, noting that campfire bans remain in effect, and that even minor things, such as cigarettes, need to be fully extinguished.

Meanwhile, the Petitot River fire remains about 4,100 hectares. Crews continue to monitor the fire but are not actively suppressing the blaze. An evacuation alert remains in effect for the nearby Penn West Wildboy plant.

“If the fire does show aggressive behaviour, then we will action the fire,” said Catherall.

The Mount Bigfoot fire also continues to burn at 450 hectares about 90 kilometres southeast of Fort Nelson, which Catherall says has not grown over the weekend. Crews continue to monitor that fire as well.