Stoddart Creek wildfire approximately 20-25 km from Fort St. John: BCWS

BC Wildfire Service says it is seeing unseasonably hot and dry conditions in the Peace region, which is causing wildfires to display aggressive spread rates.

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A picture of wildfire smoke behind a hill, a field, a barbed wire fence and some foliage.
Wildfire smoke in the North Peace. (Jordan Prentice, Energeticcity.ca)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) says crews were able to steer the Stoddart Creek wildfire and keep the blaze about 20 to 25 kilometres away from Fort St. John as of Monday evening.

According to the incident management team assigned to Fort St. John, they are responding to the Red Creek, the Stoddart Creek, the Cameron River and the Boundary Lake wildfires — called the North Peace Complex.

Approximately 400 personnel are responding to the North Peace Complex, including about 250 firefighters, 40 incident management team and support staff, 76 structure protection personnel, 22 heavy equipment operators and 22 helicopters.

BCWS says it is seeing unseasonably hot and dry conditions in the Peace region, which is causing wildfires to display aggressive spread rates.

Around 2 p.m. on Monday, sustained wind speeds of 25 to 40 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 60 kilometres per hour challenged response efforts. In addition to the hot, dry temperatures, the winds caused erratic and aggressive fire behaviour across the North Peace.

Crews are anticipating the lower temperatures and wind forecast to give them a reprieve from the aggressive fire behaviour on Monday. Crews expect the abnormally hot and dry conditions to return to the region from Wednesday and into Thursday.

The Stoddart Creek wildfire is approximately 23,500 hectares, with a more accurate update expected when crews can locate the fire’s perimeter later Tuesday.

Currently, 29 firefighters are responding to the fire during the day, and 48 are working overnight.

As well as the 22 helicopters assigned to the North Peace Complex, air tanker support is available, and drone support for aerial surveillance is being utilized when visibility is low.

On Tuesday, crews will be focused on gaining situational awareness to ensure the safety of emergency responders and the public.

The goal today for the team is to make a plan for the next couple of days, including aerial surveillance and line scouting.

Crews will evaluate the fire to locate defensible points and containment lines to be established in the coming days.

The team’s fire behaviour specialist was forecasting that the Stoddart Creek fire would continue to grow to the south and possibly the southeast, prompting the recommendations of evacuation alerts and orders in the area.

Monday evening, the Stoddart Creek fire jumped the highway and began to move towards the Red Creek wildfire, which initially closed the highway.

As of 11 p.m. Monday, the highway reopened to single-lane, alternating traffic with a pilot car.

The Red Creek wildfire is approximately 2,947 hectares, and 62 firefighters are responding to the fire.

Structure protection personnel continue to assess and proactively set up equipment in properties close to the Stoddart Creek and Red Creek wildfires.

On Tuesday, structure protection crews will mainly focus on properties southeast and southwest of the Stoddart Creek wildfire.

Structure protection personnel also assessed properties and set up protections in Blueberry River First Nation, which was recently evacuated.

A mass water delivery system remains in place at the south end of Charlie Lake to support refilling, and two portable refill tanks have also been set up for additional water supply.

According to the incident management team, the east flank of the Red Creek wildfire is secured, and crews continue to reinforce guard with patrols and water.

A guard is a wide path or dirt road where all fuel is removed and can be achieved by hand or machinery for larger guards, also known as a control line.

Crews are working north and south of the fire perimeter along the Red Creek drainage to secure containment.

If conditions are favourable on Tuesday, small-scale hand-ignitions will be carried out.

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