B.C. fire officials hope wind shift will help save Tumbler Ridge from intense blaze

Area Restriction Order

UPDATE: 7:00 p.m.

As of the last update by BC Wildfire Service the wildfire is now estimated to be 23,000 hectares in size located on the West Kiskatinaw River.

According to the BCWS, the wildfire is highly visible, poses a potential threat to public safety and is continuing to spread as it's been unresponsive to suppression efforts.

As there is a threat to the public or its property at this time, the BC Wildfire Service is in full response mode.

The BC Wildfire Service says they've implemented an Area Restriction Order for the vicinity of the South Peace Complex, located 21 kilometres east of Tumbler Ridge and 44 kilometres southwest of Dawson Creek.

This complex is managing the Peavine Creek (G70644) and West Kiskatinaw (G70645) wildfires.

This order takes effect at 12 p.m. (PDT) on June 10, 2023, and will remain in force until September 30, 2023, or until it is otherwise rescinded.

Under this Order of the Wildfire Act, it states a person must not remain in or enter the restricted area without the prior written authorization of an official designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act, unless the person enters the area only in the course of:

Travelling to or from his or her residence;

Using a highway as defined in the Highway Act;

Travelling through or entering the area as a person acting in an official capacity; or

Travelling through or entering the area for an approved purpose of supporting wildfire suppression activities.

Failure to comply could result in a fine of $1,150.

UPDATE: 1 p.m.

Shifting winds, cooling temperatures and intermittent rain showers are helping crews today battling a wildfire that forced the evacuation of the northeast British Columbia town of Tumbler Ridge.

Forrest Tower, a BC Wildfire information officer, says winds that were threatening to push the wildfire west towards the community Friday did not materialize and are now slowly moving the blaze east and south away from town.

The estimated 2,400 residents of Tumbler Ridge were ordered to evacuate earlier this week as the intense, out-of-control blaze approached within five kilometres of the community.

Tower, who is in Tumbler Ridge today, says firefighting crews are feeling a greater sense of calm compared to 24 hours ago when preparations were being made for which structures to protect.

But he says fire conditions can change at a moment's notice and it's still too early to consider lifting the evacuation order.

Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, a logging road detour route reopened to connect the communities of Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet, but the main transportation link, Highway 4, remains closed due to a nearby wildfire.

ORIGINAL: 6:45 a.m.

Fire officials are hoping a wind change will help save the community of Tumbler Ridge in northeastern British Columbia, after an intense wildfire pushed within a few kilometres of the town.

The community of 2,400 people has mostly been evacuated, but Tumbler Ridge fire Chief Dustin Curry says about 150 people remained on Friday; some of them emergency personnel, but other residents who refuse to comply with the order to leave.

Officials say the fire was about four or five kilometres east of the town on Friday afternoon.

Karley Desrosiers, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service, says crews are prioritizing structural protection by establishing so-called "moisture bubbles" around buildings and infrastructure.

Desrosiers says the behaviour of the 230-square-kilometre fire has been volatile, leaving crews with no safe path to attack the flames directly, though they're hopeful that changing winds will keep the blaze from moving closer to the town.

She says holdouts who haven't left the town should get out before it's too late because wildfires may take out roads, electricity, and cellphone service, and emergency personnel won't be put in imminent danger to rescue them.

Curry says emergency crews that remain in the area are working to protect critical infrastructure, including the town's main water reservoir, after supporting the evacuation that was announced Thursday.

On Vancouver Island, Highway 4 remains closed due to a wildfire east of Port Alberni, cutting off the main route for communities including Tofino and Ucluelet.

A four-hour detour along rough backroads was scheduled to have reopened after closing Friday so crews could extract a vehicle that rolled into a lake along the route.

Tofino Mayor Dan Law says he's in touch with provincial officials and he expects Highway 4 to reopen once the fire is sufficiently suppressed.

He says he's heard that the road itself hasn't been damaged.

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