First major wildfire of 2024 strikes in Canada as mass evacuation underway from tiny town of Fort Nelson

Residents in the British Columbia town urged to leave immediately after blaze almost doubled in size in 24 hours

Mike Bedigan
Sunday 12 May 2024 22:33 BST
Evacuation Notice Issued Over ‘catastrophic’ Wildfire in Canada’s oil town Fort McMurray | Details

More than 3,000 people in British Columbia have been ordered to evacuate by authorities after the first major wildfires of the year erupted in Canada.

Residents in the small town of Fort Nelson, around 995 miles from Vancouver, have been urged to leave immediately after a blaze that started on Friday almost doubled in size in 24 hours.

The wildfires have now spread to roughly 30 square miles in total across western Canada, Reuters reported.

On Sunday, British Columbia’s wildfire service maps showed the fire burning just a few miles west of Fort Nelson’s city limits. The town, and the Fort Nelson Indian Reserve, have a combined population of about 3,500.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM) and Fort Nelson First Nation issued a joint statement warning people choosing to stay that “emergency medical services are not available, nor are groceries or other amenities.”

Canada’s first major wildfires of the year have spread to roughly 30 square miles
Canada’s first major wildfires of the year have spread to roughly 30 square miles (via REUTERS)

Footage shared online by locals showed thick plumes of smoke rising into the sky, in some photos, haze appears to cover wide areas.

A previous alert, issued by NRRM on Saturday for the areas of Nogah and Patry Creek, read: “This Evacuation Alert has been issued to prepare you to evacuate your premises or property should it be found necessary.

“Residents will be given as much advance notice as possible prior to evacuation; however, you may receive limited notice due to changing conditions.”

The alert advised residents to locate family members, pack essential items, prepare to move vulnerable persons and pets, and arrange transport and accommodation ahead of time.

On Sunday, the municipality mayor, Rob Fraser, said most of the residents in and around Fort Nelson have been evacuated, adding that police were going door to door to ensure everyone got out, according to Associated Press. Health authorities said Fort Nelson General Hospital has been safely evacuated and closed until further notice.

Smoke from wildfires blankets the city as a couple has a picnic in Edmonton, Alberta on May 11, 2024
Smoke from wildfires blankets the city as a couple has a picnic in Edmonton, Alberta on May 11, 2024 (AP)

Last year, Canada had a record number of wildfires which forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate across British Columbia.

The fires also led to choking, thick smoke billowing south into parts of the US, turning the sky an apocalyptic orange in cities like New York and Washington DC.

This weekend, authorities in Alberta issued an alert about a wildfire 16 miles southwest of the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray that could impact visibility on highways in some areas.

The blaze grew significantly over the weekend to 21 square miles, much larger than what was reported on Friday, though no evacuation order has been given so far for the major Canadian oil city.

Elsewhere on Saturday, high winds pushed smoke across Alberta, putting the city of Edmonton under an air quality advisory with hazard levels rated at 10-plus, or “very high risk”, forecast. Meteorologists are not anticipating rain and have advised people to stay indoors.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in