UPDATE: Red Deer Creek Fire hits 2000 ha

Trent Ernst, editor


As predicted yesterday, the Red Deer Creek fire has grown to 2000 ha (estimated) and is expected to continue to grow.

According to the Wildfire Management Branch, “The fire is currently active and it is expected to significantly grow today due to high winds and hot and dry weather conditions.”

Approximately 200 people have been evacuated from a pair of oil and gas work camps in the area after the Peace River Regional District declared a local state of emergency for the area.

As well, there is a risk of severe thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The Red Deer Creek fire was caused by a lightning strike, and was first discovered on Sunday, July 6.

The fire is predicted to grow to 4000 ha by the end of the day.

“Worker accommodations and industrial facilities are likely to be impacted in the oil and gas field areas of Red Deer Creek, Ojay and Grizzly South, southeast of Tumbler Ridge by wildfire and people and property are directly threatened; now therefore it is hereby ordered pursuant to Section 12 (1) of the Emergency Program Act (RSBC, 1996, Chap 111) that a state of local emergency exists in the electoral area of “D” in the Peace River Regional District due to potential damage and threat to persons and property and without accessing the emergency powers the response will be hampered in alleviating or at least mitigating the predicted impacts,” says the declaration, issued yesterday by the Regional District.

Concurrently, the Regional District also issued an evacuation order. “The Evacuation Order is in effect for the area directly south of the Wapiti River, as far west as Wapiti Provincial Park to the most southernmost boundary of the park and directly east to the Alberta border,” said the release. This includes portions of the Grizzly South and Ojay fields, and all of the Red Deer field.

While the forecast is for slightly cooler weather over the next couple of days, there is also the possibility of dry lighting overnight, sparking off additional fires.

If the fire cannot be contained in the next couple of days, which is unlikely, the weekend is expected to be dry and hot, and that will exacerbate the situation.

Currently, three unit crews, three initial attack crews and an incident management team have been assigned to the fire, for a total of 70 firefighters. While the Wildfire Management Branch had taken over one of the camps to use for their own crews, the fire is too close to the camp and they have set up their own facilities in a safer location.

In addition, there are five helicopters and four air tankers being used to fight the fire.

There is some oil and gas infrastructure in the area, though it is not in any immediate danger at the time. However, There is an evacuation order in effect for the area near the fire and two camps of oil/gas workers on the Ojay Road totaling about 200 workers have been evacuated. The Wildfire Management Branch has taken over one of the camps to use for their own crews, and is currently working with School District #59 to set up a command post at TRSS similar to the one that they established in 2006.

Says Fire Chief Triet: “This is in no way indicates that there is any immediate threat to Tumbler Ridge. It is simply the most prudent location for a command center for this fire.” He says they have “some very high tech computer modeling equipment” that they are using to predict what the fire will do, and “there is no expectation at all the fire will get to Tumbler Ridge.

This fire is the only fire of note in Northern BC.

An update on the situation from the District of Tumbler Ridge will be made at about noon today.