Rain helps crews get back on the ground to battle fire at Big Beaver Creek

A little bit of rain overnight has given wildfire crews the break they were looking for, helping to simmer the Big Beaver Creek fire and reopening the Alaska Highway to piloted traffic.

The fire, burning at Mile 250 of the highway, is still quite large, estimated this morning at about 8,000 hectares in size and covering both sides of the highway.

Scattered showers overnight dropped about four millimetres on the fire, clearing things enough for wildfire officials to get a truer picture at the size of the blaze and to continue to battle it from the ground.

“Every little bit helps,” said fire information officer Erin Catherall.

There are 35 firefighters working the fire today to keep it contained and the highway open. Airtanker support is expected to help and douse the northeastern flank of the fire, Catherall said.

“Our primary objective is to protect life and property, and the highway is, of course, a big focus for us. It’s great we do have the piloting in effect to allow to vehicles through because it is a big traffic line for those northern communities.”

Catherall advised motorists to still expect delays as piloted traffic is only open to a single lane in both directions.

Strong and gusting winds on Wednesday pushed the fire over the highway, prompting its closure between Prophet River and Fort Nelson late Wednesday afternoon. Crews were pulled away from fighting the fire due to volatile conditions.

Catherall says wind has died down, and is expecting cooler temperatures today — up to a 10-degree drop — along with scattered showers later today and tomorrow.

However, warm and dry conditions are in the forecast for next week she said.

Firefighters from Ontario are expected sometime Friday, though Catherall couldn’t immediately say how many will be stationed here, as some will undoubtedly be sent to battle fires in the southern portions of the province.

Meanwhile, the Akue Creek fire burning about 20 kilometres southwest of Fort Nelson has also grown exponentially in size.

Catherall pegged the fire at 2,100 hectares, up from just 880 yesterday. Rain this morning has helped settle the flames, said Catherall, adding Fort Nelson is not at risk from this fire as it continues to burn away from the community.

The Petitot River fire is still at about 4,100 hectares in size and an evacuation alert remains in effect for the Wildboy gas plant.