Stoddart Creek wildfire grows by 500 hectares

The Stoddart Creek wildfire has grown by 500 hectares in the past 24 hours to approximately 22,067 hectares.

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A picture of wildfire smoke covering a blue sky with trees and other foliage in the foreground.
Smoke from the Stoddart Creek wildfire. (Jordan Prentice, Energeticcity.ca)

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Stoddart Creek wildfire has grown by 500 hectares in the past 24 hours to approximately 22,067 hectares.

According to the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS), 121 firefighters are responding to the Stoddart Creek wildfire during the day,  and 48 are responding overnight.

On Wednesday, crews completed a 300-hectare planned ignition operation to remove unburned fuels south of The Shepherd’s Inn off Highway 97.

BCWS says the ignition secured the area, which had previously been inaccessible and was threatening infrastructure. Now crews can work on the fire’s edge from the road.

On Thursday, crews will continue to utilize planned ignition operations where required as conditions allow.

Crews are also working on the north and northwest flank to prepare for a larger-scale ignition that could begin as early as Friday if conditions are favourable.

A heavy equipment task force is working on constructing a control line south of Blueberry First Nation on the northeast edge of the fire’s perimeter. Blueberry River First Nation issued its second evacuation order Wednesday evening.

On the fire’s east flank, crews are doing mop-up work to control that side of the fire, where they’ve seen mellow fire behaviour and minimal growth.

BCWS says a planning team is identifying contingency lines to construct guards to protect areas to the north, northwest and northeast.

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.

These guards will be built approximately 12 kilometres back from the fire perimeter in addition to the guard that is directly in front of the fire perimeter.

According to BCWS, operational staff can utilize planned ignitions if the fire moves beyond the primary control lines.

The wildfire service’s primary concern on the Stoddart Creek wildfire is the north and north-western flank because of the black spruce tree blowdown, which happenedon Canada Day in 2021.

There were six localized strong wind events on June 30th, 2021, that caused damage near Moberly Lake, Red Creek Road, Stoddart Creek, Lower Cache Road, Blueberry River First Nations, and Altona. Wind speeds ranged from 145 to 190 kilometres per hour.

The Red Creek wildfire remains within containment lines at 2,947 hectares. There are 47 firefighters working on the fire.

Crews are continuing mop-up and patrolling all flanks of the fire to ensure containment over the coming days.

BCWS says the Red Creek fire is burning very deep underground, partially because of the dry and extreme drought conditions. It is taking crews a lot more work, water and time to dig up the hotspots.

Crews will be working on those areas giving off residual heat that need to be taken care of.

Across the North Peace Complex, which includes the Stoddart Creek, Red Creek, Boundary Lake and Cameron River wildfires, over 600 people are responding. 

Of that number, there are 358 firefighters, 152 structure protection firefighters, 49 pieces of heavy equipment and operators, many of which are local, and 20 helicopters.

As of Thursday, the support staff and incident management team consist of 64 personnel.

According to Firesmoke.ca, smoke is still expected in the region until at least Saturday Morning.

The air quality index lists Fort St. John as a high to very high risk and suggests everyone reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. The at-risk population should avoid strenuous activities outdoors.

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