The Lejac wildfire is shown in a handout photo from the BC Wildfire Service. An out-of-control wildfire in central British Columbia has prompted a local state of emergency and several evacuations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service

State of emergency declared, evacuations ordered amid central B.C. wildfire

FRASER LAKE, B.C. — An active wildfire in central British Columbia has prompted a local state of emergency and several evacuations.

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako issued a state of emergency Saturday night and ordered people to leave an area near the community of Lejac, about five kilometres east of Fraser Lake.

Regional district chairman Gerry Thiessen said he first received a call at around 4 p.m. when the fire was about four hectares in size, and it grew to 260 hectares by the evening.

“We had pretty significant winds yesterday and that was a big concern,” Thiessen said in a phone interview Sunday.

The evacuation area affects only about half a dozen homes in an area that formerly hosted a residential school, Thiessen said.

An evacuation alert is in place for another area, meaning about 40 people there have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

The BC Wildfire Service says that as of Sunday morning, the fire was considered 70 per cent “guarded” but zero per cent contained.

Forty firefighters, two helicopters and several pieces of heavy equipment are currently deployed to fight the blaze.

The cause remains under investigation, but Thiessen said that with no recent lightning in the area it appears to have been human-caused.

A dry winter and spring means the snowpack is low in the region, making it more vulnerable to fires, he said.

“We haven’t had any significant snow or rain since almost Christmas so that’s a real concern for us,” he said. “We’re hoping that we get some precipitation and we will be able to get through the summer with as few fires as possible.”

Having grown up in the area, Thiessen said wildfires are not uncommon in July and August, but it’s rare to have such a large blaze so early in the season.

“This is very unusual and it’s concerning,” he said.

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