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This First Nation in B.C. was ordered to leave in 2023 due to fires. 1 year later, it’s happened again

May 15, 2024

Doig River First Nation, northeast of Fort St. John, remains on evacuation order on Tuesday

Akshay Kulkarni · CBC News · Posted: May 14, 2024 9:54 PM EDT | Last Updated: May 15

Plumes of smoke rise from a fire on a partly cloudy day.
A wildfire near the Doig River First Nation is pictured from north of Fort St. John, B.C., on Monday. The fire led to an evacuation order for the entire community. (Submitted by Amber McGill)

CBC Indigenous: Members of the Doig River First Nation remain out of their homes Tuesday due to a wildfire — almost one year after another nearby wildfire forced them to leave.

The First Nation, whose reserve is located around 40 kilometres northeast of Fort St. John, B.C., has a population of around 335 people, according to its website, with the 2021 census listing 85 people as living on the reserve itself.

In an evacuation order issued Monday, the nation says the fire was burning close to the community, with flames spreading to trees and foliage.

The fire, which is burning over an area of six square kilometres as of 6 p.m. PT Tuesday, was listed as out of control by the B.C. Wildfire Service. It is suspected to have been caused by human activity, a broad category that includes all fires not sparked by lightning.

The evacuation order comes almost exactly one year after a similar order was issued due to a wildfire in the community, which is located in a part of the province that has been particularly affected by ongoing drought conditions.

Shona Nelson, band manager for Doig River First Nation, said that the last year had been particularly bad for the community when it comes to smoke, especially due to the Donnie Creek fire, the province’s largest ever wildfire on record.

A woman with blonde-black hair and wearing a blue sweater sits in a hotel room.
Shona Nelson, band manager for the Doig River First Nation, praised her community’s resilience as they were ordered to evacuate for the second time in a year due to wildfires. (CBC)

“But Doig is such a resilient community,” she told Sarah Penton, host of CBC’s Radio West. “Maybe I’m biased because I work there, but they always come together in these times.”

Nelson said the members of her band were not particularly affected by a lack of spaces available for evacuees in nearby Fort St. John, which is housing thousands of evacuees fleeing a fire near Fort Nelson.

She says the West Moberly and Blueberry River First Nations generously offered up space for her members to stay.

“Our protective services team is out there … First Nations’ Emergency Services are there as well,” she said. “So a lot of people on the ground. It was literally a full-court press today.”

Plumes of smoke rise from a fire.
The First Nation has more than 300 registered members, around 85 of which live on the reserve 40 kilometres northeast of Fort St. John. (Submitted by Marlene Benson)

Late Monday night, the Peace River Regional District also issued evacuation orders related to the fire, for an area located just north of the First Nation reserve, which does not contain any listed addresses.

It also issued evacuation alerts for 32 properties northwest and northeast of the reserve, and declared a local state of emergency for Electoral Area B, which includes the Doig River First Nation.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said Tuesday that they are continuing to fight the blaze, and Nelson says she is hopeful as a small amount of rain has fallen in Fort St. John.

An update from Doig River First Nation on Tuesday morning said the area is seeing an increase in humidity and lower temperatures “which is promising, but we are remaining vigilant.”

“Sprinklers have been activated amongst the community for additional structural protection measures. Currently the community is safe, animals are taken care of,” the statement says.


Akshay Kulkarni, Journalist

Akshay Kulkarni is a journalist who has worked at CBC British Columbia since 2021. Based in Vancouver, he has covered breaking news, and written features about the pandemic and toxic drug crisis. He is most interested in data-driven stories. You can email him at

With files from Radio West