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Weather change could bring help, or hell, for fire-threatened B.C. community

VANCOUVER — Only a handful of residents remain in the northeastern British Columbia district of Hudson’s Hope, hours after an evacuation order was issued for the community about 90 kilometres west of Fort. St. John.

The now 160-square-kilometre Mount McAllister wildfire is burning fiercely to the southwest and officials worry that if it jumps the Peace River, there will be little standing between it and the community of 1,150 people.

For the first time in weeks, showers dampened the parched region overnight, but there are extreme thunderstorm warnings for areas for the north and south Peace River region, bringing with it strong winds, hail and possibly rain.

“Right now it’s hard to say whether that thunder-shower activity will be associated with rain or not. So of course dry lightning is also a concern,” said provincial fire information officer Navi Saini.

“Strong winds are expected in many areas of the province, especially in the northeastern sections of the province where we have these large fires. Strong winds will likely increase fire behaviour.”

Highway 29 south of Hudson’s Hope was closed late Wednesday, forcing evacuees to drive eastward to gather at a reception centre in Fort St. John, awaiting an update expected within hours.

There are also two BC Hydro generating stations in Hudson’s Hope, responsible for 30 per cent of the province’s power.

A BC Hydro news release said the evacuation of 200 staff and contractors won’t impact the ability to provide power to the province.

About 140 fires are burning across British Columbia and officials are keeping a close eye on a new incident reported late Wednesday afternoon on Nickel Plate Mountain, west of Apex Mountain, in the southern Okanagan.

That fire is already estimated to have scorched one-square kilometre of bush and is about the same size as the nearby Apex Mountain fire, which broke out a day earlier west of Penticton, prompting evacuation alerts for 13 properties.

There are seven fires burning in the province that threaten structures, four of which have prompted evacuation orders.

 
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