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High winds lead to major fire growth and smoke in northern B.C.

The Great Beaver Lake wildfire burning northwest of Prince George is pictured. The blaze is just one of the many fires that grew significantly due to high winds in northern B.C. (B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)
The Great Beaver Lake wildfire burning northwest of Prince George is pictured. The blaze is just one of the many fires that grew significantly due to high winds in northern B.C. (B.C. Wildfire Service - image credit)

A number of wildfires in northern B.C. grew significantly on Friday, with high winds expected to fuel further growth and smoky skies throughout the region over the weekend.

The B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) says that sustained winds of around 20 km/h to 30 km/h — gusting as high as 70 km/h — will continue to be a factor through Sunday and Monday.

The region around Vanderhoof and Prince George contains four wildfires of note, which means they are particularly visible or pose a threat to public safety.

Many of those fires — including the Great Beaver Lake, North Lucas Lake, and Tatuk Lake fires — are between 150 and 360 square kilometres in size, and have been burning since early July.

Fire officials say that as the region continues to experience heightened drought, residents should continue to be vigilant and heed campfire bans.

"We have lower temperatures, higher relative humidity into the overnight period," said fire information officer Forrest Tower on Saturday morning. "But, it isn't really making a difference because of how dry the ground is and how dry trees are.

"Unless we get precipitation, with this wind event that's coming through, we could see upwards of 10 kilometres per day of growth through the weekend and into Monday," he added.

The Tatuk Lake wildfire led to expanded evacuation orders in northern B.C. on Friday.
The Tatuk Lake wildfire led to expanded evacuation orders in northern B.C. on Friday.

The Tatuk Lake wildfire led to expanded evacuation orders in northern B.C. on Friday. (B.C. Wildfire Service)

The officer said that firefighting resources were being re-assigned from southern B.C. to the north, as wildfires begin to flare up again as they did at the start of the season.

However, the wildfire service says some remote areas are proving more difficult for firefighters — especially when it comes to the use of heavy equipment.

The Tatuk Lake wildfire led to an expanded evacuation order late Friday.

Tower added that winds from the southwest were pushing fires and smoke northeast. A smoky skies bulletin has been issued for much of B.C.

He said the aggressive fires could mean that forest service roads are cut off with little notice, and reminded hunters and backcountry users to be familiar with the terrain in case of an emergency.

Campfire bans are still in place for many parts of B.C., including central B.C. and the South Coast.

"We don't really have the ability to go after human caused fires at this point," Tower said. "We're really focused on the fires that already exist."

New evacuation orders in northeast, southwest B.C.

The Stoddart Creek wildfire, northwest of Fort St. John, led to new evacuation orders Friday for 16 properties in the Peace River Regional District.

Pedro Roldan-Delgado, a BCWS fire information officer, said the fire grew so fast that some crews had to pull back for their own safety on Friday.

"They're anticipating the fire to grow within the northeast portion of the fire," he said. "It has gone outside the pre-existing perimeter."

In southwest B.C., the Sunshine Coast Regional District issued a state of local emergency for the Clowhom Lake area, with seven properties there on evacuation order.

The province-wide state of emergency due to wildfires ended Friday, but officials have urged caution amid a record-breaking wildfire season.