Canadian firefighters battle wildfire sweeping towards B.C. town

By Thomson Reuters May 13, 2024 | 12:39 PM

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Firefighters in western Canada on Monday battled a large wildfire just outside the largely-evacuated remote town of Fort Nelson in British Columbia, a local official said.

Fort Nelson is in the line of one of the season’s first major wildfires that have spread to roughly 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) across Western Canada and are sending plumes of smoke across five Canadian provinces, as well as parts of northern Minnesota.

Mayor Rob Fraser of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, where Fort Nelson is located, said the fire moved closer overnight to the town of about 3,500 residents and was now about 1.5 km (0.9 mile) away.

“They’re bombing it, they’re dropping water with helicopters. We’ve got local crews with CATs (caterpillar tractors) and equipment, building firebreaks,” Fraser told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “It’s all hands on deck.”

After its worst-ever-wildfire season last year, Canada has just experienced one of its warmest winters with low to non-existent snow in many areas, raising fears ahead of a hot summer triggering blazes in forests and wild lands amid an ongoing drought.

“The forecast that I hear is that we’re going to get a westerly flow which could bring the fire closer to the community,” Fraser said. “There’s some fields between us … so that could slow it down, but if we get 40 kph gusts, it won’t take very long.”

The federal government last month warned Canada faces another catastrophic wildfire season as it forecast higher-than-normal spring and summer temperatures across much of the country, boosted by El Nino weather conditions.

As of Sunday, there were some 143 active blazes across Canada, including 39 deemed out of control, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

An evacuation alert was issued last Friday for Fort McMurray, Alberta, as an out-of-control fire raged southwest of the major Canadian oil town.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil; Editing by David Ljunggren and Marguerita Choy)