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UPDATE (10:49 p.m.): Highway 97 opened to single alternating traffic.
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – BC Wildfire Service hopes Tuesday will offer a “reprieve” for firefighters responding to the Red Creek and Stoddart Creek wildfires after high winds and low visibility stifled their operation Monday.
Fire information officer Hannah Swift told Energeticcity.ca Monday evening that crews cannot fully assess the wildfires until the smoke dies down, allowing for better visibility.
The fire service is hopeful that Tuesday will allow for a “big day of assessment” after firefighters withdrew from the wildfires on Monday and helicopters were forced to stay grounded. Swift says the BCWS is expecting 10 km/h winds Tuesday, along with temperatures in the low 20s and high humidity, to assist with assessment efforts.
The aggressive fire behaviour forced crews to regroup in a tactical meeting at around 4 p.m. on Monday. Winds reached up to 60 km/h, adding to the rapid growth of the wildfire, now at 18,000 hectares.
Swift says winds were coming from the north and then northeast which pushed the fire to the south and then southwest.
Personnel continued to focus on protecting properties, mainly in the southeast portion of the evacuation order.
The wildfire jumped Highway 97 after a shift in the wind from south to southeast around 6 p.m. on Monday, said Swift. As of 10 p.m., the fire was burning on both sides of the highway, resulting in low visibility.
However, the highway was reopened to single-lane alternating traffic around 10:54 p.m. Monday.
The BCWS will have 45 personnel working on protecting properties overnight in the evacuation order issued due to the wildfires.
The wildfires have forced expanded evacuation orders along with alerts issued in many municipalities, including Fort St. John.
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