Petitot River fire conditions too dangerous for crews: officials

Provincial wildfire officials say a 20-person team is on its way north to the Fort Nelson region to assess and prioritize firefighting efforts against more than 30 fires in the area, including the Petitot River fire that’s inching closer to a nearby gas plant.

Jill Kelsh says high wind and dry conditions are thwarting efforts to get crews on the ground to fight the fire at Petitot River, a 3,700 hectare blaze that has come with 10 kilometre’s of Pennwest Petroleum’s Wildboy plant.

Fifteen workers at the plant, who were placed on alert earlier this week, were ordered to evacuate today due to the volatile conditions.

“We’re expecting extreme fire behaviour,” said Kelsh.

“At this time, it’s just not safe to get out in front of the fire with our crews.”

The Petitot River fire is located about 115 kilometres northeast of Fort Nelson.

Crews have so far only set up a series of sprinklers west of the fire, according to Kelsh, and are working to prevent the fire from jumping to the north side of the river.

Kelsh says there are more than 30 fires active in the Fort Nelson Fire Zone, and are managing the burns with the resources at hand.

Most firefighters who were deployed to Alaska and the Yukon in June to help with efforts there, have since returned, according to Kelsh.