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Weekend wind whips up wildfires west of Prince George

More smoke in the forecast for today; 200 South African firefighters fighting blazes in Prince George Fire Centre

The air over Prince George was clear and free of smoke this morning but don’t get too used to it.

Wildfires in the region west and southwest of the city grew substantially over the weekend and more smoke is in the forecast with wind gusts as strong as 50 kilometres per hour predicted for much of the day Monday.

Madison Dahl, BC Wildfire Service fire information officer for the Prince George Fire Centre’s Vanderhoof-Fort St. James zone, say there are four fires of note that have been producing smoky skies over Prince George over the past week.

“It’s a combination, depending on the winds, but you’re definitely getting a lot of smoke from the Lucas Lake wildfire and the Great Beaver Lake fire,” said Dahl.

Dahl expects the air quality to diminish later today.

From Friday to Sunday, the wind whipped up the Great Beaver Lake fire (roughly 50 km west of Prince George) from 353 square-kilometres to 456 sq-km, while the Lucas Lake fire (about 150 kilometres southwest of the city) grew from 211 sq-km to 335 sq-km.

There are two other large fires west of Prince George.

The Tatuk Lake fire (75 km west) increased from 348 sq-km on Friday to 430 sq-km by Sunday.

The Whitefish Lake fire (40 km west of Fort St. James) showed no substantial growth over the weekend outside of the existing perimeter.

On Sept. 12, 200 firefighters from South Africa arrived in Prince George last Tuesday to fight fires in the region and they will be on hand until Sept. 26, bringing the number of active firefighting personnel in the Prince George Fire Centre to 480.

Dahl said there are 16 helicopters available to drop buckets of water or fly firefighters, with airtanker and skimmer aircraft strategically stationed around the province to provide support on short notice if needed.