Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia — An evacuation order has been issued for this northeastern British Columbia coal mining town of about 4,000 because of a rapidly growing forest fire.
The order was issued late Monday as the Hourglass fire grew to more than 18,000 acres and advanced within seven miles of the town between Prince George and Dawson Creek, about 400 miles north-northeast of Vancouver.
As of early Tuesday the fire continued to grow, said Baljinder Jacques of the Provincial Emergency Program.
Buses were provided for the elderly and others with special needs, and emergency reception centers were established for evacuees to register at Dawson Creek and Chetwynd, another town in the area.
Tumbler Ridge Mayor Mike Caisley said evacuees were told to bring enough clothes and toiletries for two or three days, although authorities said they could not determine how long the evacuation would last.
“I don’t have any doubts that it is inconvenient at best. It’s going to present some hardships for as long as the evacuation order stays in place,” Caisley said.
Some residents were staying in hotels in Chetwynd, one hour away by road, and Dawson Creek, two hours away, while others stayed in their own utility or recreational trailers.
“As it stands right now there hasn’t been any problem of finding suitable accommodation in the numbers that are being evacuated,” Caisley said.
The fire also forced the closure of part of Highway 52, which was not needed for the evacuation.
The blaze was started Thursday by lightning and spread rapidly because of dry conditions, fire information officer Dean Fenn said.
“It’s more the fuel types that are presenting the problem.” he said. “The drying during the day is preheating the fuel and that’s creating the difficulty.”
Three other fires were also burning in the region but posed no immediate threaten to inhabited areas. About 200 workers and more than a dozen helicopters were fighting the four fires.