The Peace River Regional District says residents of 14 properties in rural areas north of Fort St. John may return home after being ordered to leave due to a record-breaking wildfire, though the situation remains “volatile.”
It follows the lifting of another evacuation order for properties east of Highway 97, but the district says people should be prepared to leave again on short notice.
The Donnie Creek blaze has grown in recent days to become the largest wildfire recorded in British Columbia history, spanning more than 5,500 square kilometres.
An update from the BC Wildfire Service says the wildfire accounts for about 62 per cent of the total area burned in the province so far this season.
Wildfires have charred nearly 8,700 square kilometres since April 1, eclipsing the 20-year average of about 162 square kilometres for the same time of year.
A fire that forced the closure of a key highway connecting communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island has meanwhile been declared under control, and the province says it’s on track to reopen to single-lane alternating traffic this weekend.
A statement from the Transportation Ministry says crews have cleared the stretch of Highway 4 east of Port Alberni of trees and debris that had tumbled down over steep terrain, and work is underway to install temporary safety measures.
It says those measures include a concrete barrier and protective “mesh curtains” suspended by cranes to prevent debris from falling onto the route.
A backroad detour remains open and local airlines have added flights to meet demand for travel to and from cut-off communities, including Tofino and Ucluelet.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2023.