The RCMP has joined an investigation into a wildfire in northern B.C. over the possibility arson was involved.
The police want the public’s help in the investigation of the Little Bobtail Lake fire southwest of Prince George that has already burned an area nearly 60 times the size of Stanley Park.
Prince George RCMP Cpl. Craig Douglass said police and forestry investigators believe the fire — 24,000 hectares in size and only 15 per cent contained on Monday — was man-made.
Whether the fire was accidental or set intentionally has not been determined, but an active investigation is underway, he said.
“Where the investigation will lead hasn’t been determined, but if there is criminality involved under the (federal) Criminal Code, the police are involved,” said Douglass.
Charges can also be laid under provincial laws for man-made wildfires that include fines as high as $1 million, and jail time.
While investigators know where the fire originated, those details and other specifics of the investigation are not being released.
The fire has been burning for more than a week and has grown to cover an area of 240 square kilometres.
As a result of heavy winds fanning the flames in the dry forested area, the blaze ballooned during a 24-hour period from Saturday, reversing some progress by crews struggling to contain the aggressive fire.
By Monday, the winds had died down, temperatures had cooled and the humidity had increased, said Peter Goode, a fire information officer with the province’s Wildfire Management Branch.
“That’s aiding in suppression of the fire by crews,” he said.
About 10 millimetres of rain is also forecast by Thursday, noted Goode.
The fire has reached as close as 500 metres from the southwest corner of Norman Lake.
The flames have forced the evacuation of about 80 people living around Norman Lake and Bobtail Lake, while neighbouring residents around Bednesti Lake and Cluculz Lake have been put on evacuation alert.
So far no buildings have been damaged.
Seth Tobin shot video last week of the fire and huge columns of billowing smoke from his deck on Cluculz Lake, on the side of the lake farthest from the fire.
He said they have been warned that if the fire was to reach the south side of Cluculz Lake, it would likely jump to other side from the flying ash.
More than 300 personnel are in the Little Bobtail Lake area, with 270 firefighters, 13 helicopters, 22 pieces of heavy equipment and eight air tankers battling the blaze.
Campfires were not banned in the area last Saturday when the fire broke out, though a prohibition on fireworks, tiki torches and grass burning had been imposed three days earlier.
The RCMP is working with investigators of the wildfire management branch of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources on the Little Bobtail fire.