TUMBLER RIDGE, B.C. — The West Kiskatinaw wildfire is approximately four or five kilometres from Tumbler Ridge, according to BC Wildfire Services (BCWS).
Karley Desrosiers, fire information officer with South Peace Complex, said the ignition point was approximately 21 kilometres from Tumbler Ridge.
“Since Tuesday afternoon, we’ve seen it move about 15 kilometres, and from my understanding, about eight or nine of those were yesterday,” Desrosiers said.
Desorsiers said BCWS has upwards of 60 structure protection personnel working in Tumbler Ridge, with more arriving throughout the day.
The West Kiskatinaw River fire has yet to cross the Bearhole Lake Road, a boundary crew is working to keep.
If the fire crosses this road, it will likely move up the slope towards the community of Tumbler Ridge, according to Desrosiers.
Fire moves more quickly uphill as the flames dry out fuels up a slope, and Desrosiers said the priority was the structures on top of the ridge for structure protection personnel on Thursday night.
“The objective when it comes to structure protection is to create a moisture bubble around structures,” Desrosiers explained.
“Essentially using the sprinkler systems, the hose lays, establishing water sources, should the fire encroach more in the community, that moisture bubble can be activated and ideally reduce fire activity and fire behaviour.”
Tumbler Ridge Fire Chief and EOC information officer Dustin Curry said structure protection prioritizes critical infrastructure, such as the main water reservoir and homes that would likely be hit by the fire first if it were to breach the top of the ridge.
Highway 52 has closed in two spots, north and east of Tumbler Ridge, due to the wildfire. Check DriveBC for the latest updates on road closures.
The Peavine Creek wildfire is estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000 hectares and is expected to grow, said Desrosiers.
Evacuation orders and alerts regarding the South Peace Complex fires were issued by the Peace River Regional District (PRRD), and the District of Tumbler Ridge issued an evacuation order Thursday afternoon.
Just after 2 p.m. on June 8th, EmergencyInfoBC issued an evacuation order for the District of Tumbler Ridge and areas of the PRRD. The District of Tumbler Ridge posted the evacuation order on Facebook at 2:50 p.m.
“We did have a bit of a delay in transcribing some of the documents, as the District of Tumbler Ridge is a relatively new website, and they didn’t quite correlate in legible fonts so that you could actually easily see them on our website. So that was a bit of a breakdown in that,” Curry said.
Curry said approximately 90 per cent of Tumbler Ridge’s population has evacuated, leaving about 150 individuals who have chosen to stay.
Some of that number are EOC staff, but some are residents who refuse to leave.
Curry encourages residents who have chosen to stay and are not part of the EOC to evacuate because it is the best way to help staff and the public.
He says there is an RCMP presence in Tumbler Ridge, but BC Ambulance has left town.
“If we get into the situation where there’s going to be a need to evacuate on very short notice, we’re not going to have the resources available to make sure they get out,” Curry said.
He also emphasized the importance of registering at reception centres once evacuated.
“The message to those folks that have chosen to stay behind is that, if it does become imminent and they choose to leave, it can come down to it being too late to be able to escape safely,” Desrosiers added.
Therese Mickelson, with the PRRD and an EOC information officer, said evacuating from One Island Lake is also important.
“Our understanding is that road access into One Island Lake could be cut off due to the wildfire, so it is extremely important for everyone to evacuate and stay out of the area,” Mickelson said.
Also included in the evacuation order are Bearhole Lake Provincial Park areas, so Mickelson said to stay out of the park as well.
Emergency Support Services (ESS) Reception Centres were open Friday in Fort St. John, Chetwynd and Dawson Creek. If an emergency occurs when the centres are closed, residents can call 250-794-3310.
The Fort St. John ESS Reception Centre is at the Pomeroy Sport Centre at 9324 96th Street; the Dawson Creek ESS Reception Centre is at the Ovintiv Centre at #1 300 Highway 2; and the Chetwynd ESS Reception Centre is at the District Town Hall at 5400 Hospital Road.
Evacuees in Prince George requiring services can contact 778-675-3755.
If a resident has not registered and does not require ESS, call 250-794-3310 to register.
Ryan Harvey, an EOC information officer in Fort St. John, said if residents require lodging, to go to Fort St. John as the other centres have limited to no availability.
The Dawson Creek and Fort St. John reception centres will open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
As of Thursday night, Harvey said approximately 60 families were accommodated with hotels in Fort St. John and as of Friday morning, over 100 hotel rooms are still available in the community.
“We do have contingencies as well in the area for additional lodging and food services,” Harvey said.
“We do feel that we have enough within the community and in the surrounding area to meet the needs as they are currently.”
For the latest information on wildfires, visit BCWS’ website.