Skip to content

Wildfires near Fort McMurray, Fort Nelson, force 1,000s from their homes

Communities near the northern Alberta B.C. border dealing with early season blazes
Fort Nelson, B.C. evacuee Jim Wright looks on after registering at the North Peace Arena in Fort St. John, B.C., on Monday, May 13, 2024. Wildfires are forcing more people to evacuate their homes in dry and windy northeastern B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Boily

Thousands of people in Western Canada remain displaced from their homes as wildfires threaten their communities, triggering evacuation orders and alerts.

In British Columbia, a widening area around the northeastern community of Fort Nelson is under evacuation, with the Parker Lake wildfire burning close by and the larger Patry Creek wildfire raging to the northwest.

Both fires are listed with the B.C. Wildfire Service as “wildfires of note,” with Parker Lake measuring 84 square kilometres in size and the Patry Creek fire covering a whopping 464 square kilometres.

In Alberta, a 209-square-kilometre fire has chased more than 6,600 residents of southern Fort McMurray from their homes.

In 2016, a similar wildfire destroyed much of the oilsands community and its recovery took years.

And just north of Cranberry Portage, Man., an out-of-control wildfire measuring 316 square kilometres has forced the area’s roughly 500-plus locals to flee their homes.

The shifting conditions of the fires in northeastern B.C. forced the RCMP to relocate one of their safety checkpoints outside of Fort Nelson.

Mayor Rob Fraser issued a plea for residents not to attempt returning to their homes during the Mounties’ absence.

He says emergency crews need to focus on fighting the fires and not watching out for people trying to head home when it is not yet safe.

For those working to defend the community from the fire, Structure Protection Branch director Keving Delgarno says crews were able to work until about midnight, not until dawn, as has been the case lately.

“The fire behaviour’s settled down, and hasn’t been as aggressive.”

He says the forecast for the region is continuing to look favourable, which will further aid in their efforts.

While the nearby Parker Lake wildfire is the fire that triggered the evacuation of the Fort Nelson area, fire behaviour specialist Ben Boghean says the Patry Creek fire, some 25 kilometres north of the community, grew substantially earlier this week, fanned by high winds.

He notes that, currently, it does not pose the same danger, but that could rapidly change with a return of strong winds and drier conditions.

READ ALSO: B.C. rallying resources to protect Fort Nelson from encroaching wildfire

READ ALSO: B.C. prepares for wildfires as forecasts call for hot weather amid drought