British Columbia·Updated

More than 2,000 ordered to evacuate from B.C.'s Tumbler Ridge due to nearby wildfire

People living in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., have been ordered to evacuate from the community and immediately head to Dawson Creek due to the West Kiskatinaw River wildfire.

Evacuees told to take Highway 29 to Dawson Creek

A wildfire with gray smoke burns through hectares of evergreen trees.
The West Kiskatinaw River wildfire in northeast B.C. is pictured in a photo posted by the B.C. Wildfire Service on Wednesday. (Twitter/B.C. Wildfire Service)

Everyone in Tumbler Ridge, B.C., has been ordered to immediately evacuate from the community due to the risk of a nearby, uncontrolled wildfire.

notice posted Thursday said the fire, known as the West Kiskatinaw River wildfire, is now a threat to human life. 

The evacuation order covers the district itself as well as properties to the east, including homes at Bearhole Lake. 

Evacuees have been told to take Highway 29 and register with the reception centre at the Ovintiv Events Centre in Dawson Creek or District Town Hall in Chetwynd.

Highway 52 East has now been shut down in both directions because the fire is close, according to the district.

WATCH | Uncontrolled wildfire near Tumbler Ridge prompts evacuations:

Uncontrolled wildfire burns near B.C.'s Tumbler Ridge

2 hours ago
Duration 1:00
The West Kiskatinaw River wildfire, burning about 15 to 20 kilometres away from the town of Tumbler Ridge, has forced more than 2,000 people to evacuate as of Thursday afternoon.

"It was kind of like, 'Holy hell, here we go again,'" said resident Judy Proulx, referring to another wildfire evacuation in the community in July 2006.

"I live basically on the main road and you could see a lot of people with their trailers and their campers just heading out. The kids were let out of school, all the businesses closed the doors ... my husband went to gas up and there was quite a few people gassing up to make sure that they can get out," she continued.

"But not panicking. Just a lot of people leaving."

The District of Tumbler Ridge wrote in a Facebook update that people who need assistance evacuating, including transportation, should call 911.

"The local emergency response team will be able to assist you," reads the post. 

A map shows evacuees to use Highway 29 as the route out of Tumbler Ridge, B.C. Highway 52 and Boundary Road are closed.
A map shows evacuees to use Highway 29 as the route out of Tumbler Ridge, B.C. Highway 52 and Boundary Road are closed. (CBC News)

Tumbler Ridge is a community of roughly 2,400 people in northeast B.C. The wildfire, which is to the east of the community, is an estimated 96 square kilometres in size.

"I'm asking people that they follow the order and leave our community," said Tumbler Ridge Mayor Darryl Krakowka. 

As of Thursday afternoon, he says he has seen many residents filling up their tank and leaving town. 

The B.C. Wildfire Service said the fire has been aggressive, out of control and unresponsive to fire crews' work since it was discovered on Tuesday. 

"We're seeing gusts of 30 kilometres an hour, some higher ... it has driven that wildfire at a pretty significant pace towards both Highway 51 and the community of Tumbler Ridge," said Forest Tower, fire information officer with the B.C. Wildfire Service.

"That is what is prompted that evacuation order to be recommended and go into place."

Tower said the flames are about 20 kilometres from the community.

Province bracing for 'very challenging' fire season

Earlier Tuesday, officials said B.C. is expecting a "very challenging" fire season after a hot, dry spring. Forests have dried out, and snow has already melted from higher elevations, leaving the province vulnerable to fires caused by lightning two to four weeks earlier than usual.

"Our fuels are increasingly available to burn and more so than they typically would be this time of year," Neal McLoughlin, superintendent of predictive services for the B.C. Wildfire Service, told a news conference Tuesday.

Environment Canada said the weather is likely to continue through August.

"There's a fairly strong signal right across the country for a warmer-than-normal summer," said Matt MacDonald, lead fire weather forecaster for the service.

B.C. Forests Minister Bruce Ralston said some of the province's firefighting crews are being called back from other parts of Canada, including Alberta. 

With files from Wildinette Paul, Betsy Trumpener, Radio West, and Canadian Press