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Fort St. John, B.C., rescinds evacuation alert as wildfire advance is paused

Change in wind direction helped firefighters prevent out-of-control wildfires from advancing closer
A change in wind direction and 48 firefighters battling overnight has kept two out-of-control wildfires from advancing closer to Fort St. John in northeast British Columbia. A helicopter with a water bucket battling the Flood Falls Trail wildfire picks up water from the Fraser River, in Hope, B.C., Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The City of Fort St. John in northeast British Columbia has rescinded its evacuation alert, as a change in wind direction aided firefighters in preventing two out-of-control wildfires from advancing closer.

An update on the city’s website says the alert has been lifted for all properties and its roughly 21,000 residents “can safely resume everyday activities.”

BC Wildfire Service information officer Hannah Swift says the Stoddart Creek blaze that is threatening the city is now estimated to be 215 square kilometres in size, down from the earlier estimate of 235 square kilometres on Tuesday.

Environment Canada says winds there have shifted from northerly to a more easterly direction, pushing both the Stoddart Creek fire and the smaller Red Creek blaze away from the city.

Fire crews say the lull in dangerous weather gave them a recovery day after wind gusts up to 60 kilometres an hour had pushed smoke plumes into Fort St. John and flames toward the city on Monday, triggering the alert for residents to be ready to leave.

Swift says crews were able to conduct a controlled burn to remove just under one square kilometre of “unburned fuel” in the path of the fires that could have closed down Highway 97 north of the city.

She says firefighters are watching the forecast closely for another expected stretch of hotter conditions, with potentially problematic winds from the north or southeast, expected to arrive as soon as late Wednesday.

READ MORE: Smoky haze from active wildfires expected to get worse in B.C. Interior

READ MORE: Easing winds aid wildfire fight, after ‘controlled chaos’ in Fort St. John