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 others 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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2023.