FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The BC Wildfire Service says that the Tommy Lakes Fire continues to burn north of Fort St. John and has now grown to over 19,000 hectares, forcing 78 area residents from their homes.
Fire Information Officer Rosalie MacAuley said that after conducting an aerial survey yesterday, the Wildfire Service now estimates the size of the conflagration at 19,540 hectares, and the fire is zero percent contained. She said that the personnel battling the blaze had their ranks bolstered since Monday, bringing the total of firefighters at the scene to 133, with two additional helicopters and pieces of heavy equipment. The total of both helicopters and heavy machinery pieces is now nine each.
“On the east side of the Beatton Road, crews are working to build and reinforce guard along the fire perimeter to prevent the fire from crossing the Beatton road,” said an update on the Wildfire Service website. “Crews are also working on a fireline south on the Tommy Lakes Road. Additional crews are continuing with blackline and mop-up operations along the South Nig connector. Sprinklers are installed on the bridge at the 56km mark on the Tommy Lakes Road.”
MacAuley explained crews did notice some increased fire activity yesterday that was caused by the high winds meaning that the fire is likely larger than currently reported, though officials won’t have an updated number until after surveys are conducted later today. She said that air tankers were able to complete part of their mission in limiting the fire’s growth along the southeast flank, but had to be grounded as a precautionary measure after just a few hours because of heavy smoke.
An area restriction remains in effect for the area surrounding the fire. The area restriction has been put in place to address public-safety concerns arising from the wildfire’s rate of spread and to avoid interference with fire control. The restriction will remain in place until noon on July 31st, or until the order is rescinded.
Under this order and Section 11(2) of the Wildfire Act, a person must not remain in or enter the Tommy Lakes wildfire restricted area without prior written authorization of an official, designated for the purposes of the Wildfire Act, unless the person enters the area under the following circumstances only:
- travelling to or from his or her principal residence that is not under an evacuation order;
- using a highway as defined in the Transportation Act;
- travelling to or from an industrial activity or business location;
- travelling through or entering the area as a person acting in an official capacity; or
- through or entering the area for an approved purpose of supporting wildfire suppression activities.
An evacuation order has also been issued by the Peace River Regional District due to the immediate danger posed by the fire. The PRRD’s Deputy CAO Shawn Dahlen said that in total, 78 evacuees have registered at the Emergency Evacuation Centre at the North Peace Arena.