July 9, 2014 2:53 pm

Growing B.C. fire threatens Alberta border

An aerial view of the Red Deer Creek wildfire near the B.C./Alberta boundary is shown in a government of British Columbia handout photo. A raging wildfire has now burned through twenty-square kilometres of northeastern B.C. brush as the Red Deer Creek blaze is fanned by strong winds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

TUMBLER RIDGE, B.C. – A forest fire in northeastern B.C. has more than quadrupled in size in 24 hours and threatens to singe Alberta’s boundary.

Information officer Jill Kelsh said the blaze about 60 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge had grown to 3,100 hectares by Wednesday from the estimated 650 hectares on Tuesday.

Kelsh said the main concerns for crews are keeping the fire from oil-and-gas wellheads in the area and trying to stop it from spreading across the boundary into Alberta.

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“I know that we’ll be doing some burnoff procedures and hopefully try to divert the fire from crossing the Alberta border.”

About 200 people were evacuated on Monday from two oil-and-gas camps in the area.

Kelsh said the Wildfire Management Branch was working with personnel from the oil-an-gas firms to protect the wellheads and the work camps. She said most of the structures are metal and are surrounded by gravel, which gives added protection to the sites.

More fire crews were pouring into the area and Kelsh said they expect to have at least 100 firefighters battling the flames by late Wednesday, with the assistance of several helicopters and airtankers.

With no rain in the forecast, Kelsh said they have every expectation that the fire will continue to grow. Those fighting the blaze are seeing Rank 3 and Rank 4 fire behaviour, which means the flames are growing up to the tops of trees, she said.

“We’re starting to see the fire on the treetops,” she explained. “Rank 5 is kind of the maximum, when we start to see the fire create it’s own little weather system …. We’re not there yet, but it’s basically a step below that.”

The fire was sending large plumes of grey smoke into the air, but Kelsh said there had been no complaints of heavy smoke in nearby Tumbler Ridge yet.

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