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Fire forces evacuation

Hudson's Hope residents were ordered to evacuate Wednesday afternoon as a wildfire southwest of town burned out of control. The order came after an alert was issued earlier in the day for residents to be ready to leave the area at a moment's notice.


Hudson's Hope residents were ordered to evacuate Wednesday afternoon as a wildfire southwest of town burned out of control.

The order came after an alert was issued earlier in the day for residents to be ready to leave the area at a moment's notice.

Around 1 p.m. Wednesday, the District of Hudson's Hope upgraded the alert to an order and 1,150 were evacuated.

Residents were told to head to Fort St. John and check in at the North Peace Arena, where an emergency social services reception centre had been established.

According to Moira Green, economic development officer with the city of Fort St. John, evacuees should register at the arena so officials know where people intend to stay during the fire.

"It's very important we know where people have gone," she said.

"We've been preparing since early this morning. We knew we had to be ready," she said.

Some evacuees brought motor homes with them, loaded with possessions and provisions. Others were looking for a place to stay.

Carol Wyant waited in the parking lot with her three dogs while her husband was inside the rec centre registering. They were pulling a trailer that she normally kept stocked for visitors, and that came in handy when they had to leave.

"We just put some food in there and some stuff from the fridge," she said. Her husband works at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, and was sent home early.

"We live on 40 acres and our neighbors keep their horses out back so we keep our lawn pretty short, we're pretty much clear I think," she said. "But the people around us, with the trees all around, that's scary. I'm worried about the neighbors' more than our property."

Tim Viers, the pastor of Hudson's Hope Bible Fellowship, was also there with his wife and children. He said that although he heard about blaze the night before, he didn't anticipate yesterday's evacuation notice.

"We brought some valuables, clothes, the computer, things you can't replace like files, but nothing too much," he said.

He said that he was optimistic they would reign in the fire. "I'm sure they'll be working pretty hard to save the infrastructure."

Green said the city was also looking for pasture land to house animals evacuated from Hudson's Hope. She said many people were bringing horses, dogs and other livestock as they fled the fire. Anyone with land is asked to call 250-794-5178.

Meagan Babkirk, a resident of Taylor, created a Facebook page to help coordinate housing for people displaced by the fire. Within an hour, dozens of people had posted offers of accommodation and space for animals.

Babkirk, who works at the public pool in Fort St. John, said the North Peace Arena was being readied to house an influx of people.

She had not personally been taken up on her offer of shelter, but expected she would be soon.

"My guess is they'll get sick of camping after a night."

The Salvation Army in Fort St. John was also gearing up to assist anyone coming in from Hudson's Hope.

Supervisor Beverly Rawn said the organization was offering food, showers and clothing to any evacuees.

She said the facility could house around 20 people.

The City of Fort St. John also asked residents and people who use the rural water filling station to conserve their water usage.

In a release, the city said there is not a water shortage. However, they are concerned that if forest fires in the area reach Hudson's Hope, the city may experience power outages that will limit the city's ability to fill the city water reservoirs from the Peace River.

Fort St. John and area residents were quick to offer help.

As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., the Mount McAllister fire had grown to 20,000 hectares. At the time, the Wildfire Management Branch had determined containment efforts were too risky.

"Personnel are on site determining how to manage the fire's spread," according to a release from the Wildfire Management Branch.

Soon after the evacuation order, DriveBC announced Highway 29 would be closed in both directions 33 kilometers north of Chetwynd. Evacuees were advised to take Highway 29 north out of town.

Mark Coderre, who works as a contractor at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, said smoke was visible from his work site Tuesday evening.

His employer told him to evacuate to Fort St. John ahead of the general order.

"I came into work this morning, and everyone was heading off to meetings. They'd been awake since 1:30," he said. "They were prepping everyone to evacuate the area."

He has since relocated to a hotel in Fort St. John. He added a skeleton crew was being left behind to operate the dam.

"They knew Hudson's Hope would be evacuated, and if Hudson's Hope is evacuated, that's 90 per cent of the workforce."

He said crews on the dam spent parts of Tuesday night watching the fire.

"It was a very active fire last night," he said. "There was no aircraft activity. There hasn't been on that fire since the start. We basically watched it burn."

On Wednesday afternoon, BC Hydro announced it was evacuating 200 staff and contractors from generating stations along the Peace Canyon.



Red Deer Creek Fire Still Burning

The Red Deer Creek wildfire continued to grow at an alarming rate Tuesday. As of around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, the fire had burned around 33,400 hectares - around 129 square miles - to the southeast of Tumbler Ridge. As of the Alaska Highway News press deadline, it was the largest of 12 "fires of note" in B.C.

"We had a huge fire day [Tuesday] and saw large amounts of growth in the majority of our fires," said Jill Kelsh of the Prince George Fire Centre.

As of Wednesday, the fire had crossed the border into Alberta. An incident management team was set to take over management of the fire.

On Tuesday evening, columns of smoke were visible to the south of Dawson Creek.

"[Crews] lost all their fire containment lines," said Kelsh, adding the fire had now been downgraded to zero per cent contained. Due to extreme fire activity Tuesday, the Wildfire Management Branch pulled its crews off the fire.

Kelsh predicted the fire would grow significantly Wednesday, as conditions were too dangerous for crews to actively fight the fire.

"We're hoping a weather event will happen in the next 48 hours," she said.

With files from William Stodalka