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125 wildfires burn in B.C., with majority in province’s northeast

Parker Lake, which is burning kilometres away from Fort Nelson, is more than 12,000 hectares
The Parker Lake wildfire near Fort Nelson is seen through an aircraft window as it burns Friday, May 10. (B.C. Wildfire Service photo)

Two major wildfires continue to burn in the province’s northeast and B.C.’s emergency management minister says recent rain and lower temperatures are not enough to offset prolonged drought conditions in the region.

“Thankfully, our worst fears have not materialized, but I want to be extremely clear — we are not out of the woods,” Bowinn Ma. “The May-long weekend will be a challenging situation for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and the Peace River Regional District.”

Ma also urged British Columbians travelling over the long weekend to stay away from the Fort Nelson area, while encouraging them to visit other parts of British Columbia after consulting available information sources. “We want British Columbians to explore the province, but we also need people to do so in a safe and informed manner,”

Ma made these comments Friday (May 17) during an update on wildfire situation in the province’s northeast, where most of the current 175 wildfires are burning. Staff from the B.C. Wildfire Service and the ministries of agriculture and food and transportation and infrastructure joined.

Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations with the B.C. Wildfire Service, said conditions in the northeast are extremely dry.

“We are experiencing fuel-drought that we haven’t seen in a long time, if ever, in British Columbia, and because of that we are seeing extreme fire behaviour in and around some of the fires in the Prince George Fire Centre,” he said. “The conditions are really tough…and we are not expecting more rain.”

READ MORE: Holdover wildfires slumbering through the winter increasing B.C. concern

READ MORE: B.C. wildfire inflicts ‘some structural damage’ in Fort Nelson

The Patry Creek and Parker Lake fires remain B.C.’s two wildfires of note. They led to evacuation alerts and orders for residents around Fort Nelson.

The Patry Creek fire is a holdover fire from 2023, meaning it continued to smolder underground during the winter. It has an estimated size of 71,818 hectares as of Friday following its discovery on May 2 about 20 kilometres north of Fort Nelson.

The Parker Lake fire discovered on May 10 is burning just one kilometre west of Fort Nelson with an estimated 12,329 hectares as of Friday.

Ma said crews will be working through the long weekend, but could not give an update when close to 5,000 evacuees might be able to return home.

“This is a very active and dynamic situation,” Ma said.

The update from the province comes an hour after several open-burning bans came into effect at noon. Both category 2 and 3 bans are in place in five of the six fire centres: Cariboo, Coastal, Kamloops, Northwest and Prince George. There is only a Category 3 ban in place in the Southeast.

Category 2 and 3 includes backyard and industrial burning, along with fireworks, sky lanterns and binary exploding targets.

READ MORE: Category 2 and 3 fire ban for Vancouver Island starting on Friday, May 17

Ma also encouraged British Columbians to be on the lookout for signs of smoke and report them to authorities.