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Wildfire forces workers to flee

A growing wildfire southeast of Tumbler Ridge, and concerns about its "immediate danger to life and safety," has forced the Peace River Regional District to issue an evacuation order affecting about 200 workers in two oil-and-gas camps.

The order was given early Tuesday afternoon and applies to the oil-and-gas field areas of Ojay, Grizzly South and Red Deer Creek.

Jillian Kelsh of BC's Wildfire Management Branch said the fire is about 650 hectares in size, 61 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge and 27 kilometres from the Alberta boundary, but it isn't expected to reach any communities.

"Right now our top priorities are just making sure that the area is clear," she said. "We do have a structure protection unit going up in hopes that it can provide some value to the camps in the area, and then our big concern is just making sure that it doesn't cross over to the Alberta side."

The fire was first reported Sunday and is being blamed on a lightning strike, said Kelsh, who added the area is mostly forested.

The regional district's evacuation order was issued because of what it called an "immediate danger to life safety," and it directs people to leave the area with their personal belongings immediately and to close and latch gates.

Kelsh said 70 firefighters, five helicopters and four air tankers are battling the blaze.

"We do expect it to grow quite significantly in the next 24 hours just due to high winds and hot and dry temperatures," she said.

A separate news release issued by the District of Tumbler Ridge said some of the workers are from a camp on Ojay Road. It said the wildfire is growing fast and could cover 4,000 hectares by the end of Wednesday.

The Wildfire Management Branch is also working with the local school district to set up a command post at a high school.

"This is in no way indicates that there is any immediate threat to Tumbler Ridge," said the release. "It is simply the most prudent location for a command centre for this fire."

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