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Winds are expected to trigger the out-of-control fire in Fort Nelson, B.C

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Around 3,500 people have to be evacuated as the forest fire area expands to 25 square kilometers

The northeastern British Columbia community where thousands were evacuated due to a nearby wildfire is bracing for worsening conditions as fires rage near several communities in western Canada.

In an update released early Sunday (May 12), the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality warned all remaining residents to leave the area as the fire threat “has escalated to a higher level.” Most of the 3,500 people in the area are believed to have already come out.

The update says an emerging weather system will bring strong westerly winds, posing a threat to the community of Fort Nelson, which lies east of the Parker Lake wildfire, which is now 25 square kilometers in size.

Environment Canada forecast wind speeds falling to as low as 2 kilometers per hour on Saturday and increasing again Sunday evening. Meteorologists are forecasting wind speeds of up to 20 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 50 kilometers per hour through Monday.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality says the winds “have the real potential to significantly increase the size of the fires over the next 48 hours,” and Fort Nelson's emergency operations center itself will be relocated south later in the day.

“Know that the decision to evacuate was not made lightly and was based on careful assessment and expert advice, with the safety of residents as a priority,” the update said.

“At this time, all residents currently in the community are urged to reconsider and evacuate immediately. They are our friends, family and neighbors. Please stay safe.”

The Parker Lake fire was discovered Friday and is now considered an out-of-control and significant wildfire, meaning it is highly visible or poses a potential threat to public safety.

Northern Rockies Regional Municipality Mayor Rob Fraser said the fire was started by a tree that fell from strong winds and fell onto a power line.

Highway 97 (Alaska Highway) is currently closed north of Fort Nelson.

ALSO READ: Wildfire that led to Fort Nelson evacuation due to fallen tree: Mayor