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Helicopters and layer of smoke help in fight against northeastern B.C. wildfire

Amount of smoke in the area was enough to provide a buffer from the sun’s heat
Smoke is shown as the Stoddart Creek wildfire burns in British Columbia in this May 14, 2023 handout image taken from video. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-BC Wildfire Service **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Crews battling a 215-square-kilometre wildfire near Fort St. John in northeastern British Columbia got some unexpected help in the fight.

An information officer with the BC Wildfire Service says the amount of smoke in the area was enough to provide a buffer from the sun’s heat, which had been expected to cause problems for crews at the Stoddart Creek blaze and others nearby.

Hannah Swift said there was enough of a break in the smoke to allow crews to launch helicopters to fight the fire that’s about 25 kilometres from Fort St. John.

She said the blaze is not believed to have grown substantially in the last 24 hours.

The forecast suggests possible rain over the weekend, although Swift said there’s also potential for thunderstorms, which could bring lightning.

The City of Fort St. John lifted an evacuation alert yesterday that had put the community of about 21,000 residents on edge since Monday, while more than 1,300 properties in the surrounding area remain under an evacuation order.

The wildfire service’s website lists 60 active wildfires in B.C.

Officials have issued a ban on large open burning across the province in an effort to prevent human-caused wildfires.

Under the province’s fire ban designations, Category 2 and 3 open burning will be prohibited starting at noon Thursday.

That includes large open fires, other than a campfire, that burn material in one or more piles not exceeding two metres in height and three metres in width, as well as burning stubble or grass that doesn’t exceed 0.2 hectares.

In its 2023 wildfire cause summary, the service has reported 42 wildfires as human-caused, while 15 were started by lightning and three had unknown causes.

The service has also announced that, starting Friday at noon, all open fires, including campfires, will be prohibited throughout the Prince George Fire Centre, where all four out-of-control wildfires in the province are located.

It says campfires elsewhere in the province have to be confined to 0.5 metres in height and 0.5 metres in diameter.

“Open burning can be a useful tool when conducted responsibly and only while it is permitted. If conducted irresponsibly or in unsafe conditions, the potential of a human-caused wildfire increases,” the service said on Twitter last month.

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

READ MORE: Air-quality expert says risks underestimated as wildfire smoke descends across B.C.