Firefighters continued to battle a growing wildfire Tuesday southwest of Prince George, B.C., where cooler weather earlier this week was expected to keep it from spreading while lightning posed a continuing threat.
Fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said the Little Bobtail Lake fire grew by 40 per cent to 250 square kilometres over the weekend.
"It's unusual to see a fire of this size so early in the season," Skrepnek said. "Otherwise, it's been a pretty typical year in terms of number of fires we've seen and the area burned."
Eighty people remain out of their homes in the Prince George area, while residents in 830 properties in the regional districts of Fraser-Fort George the Bulkley-Nichako are on evacuation alert.
The Little Bobtail fire is believed to be caused by humans, though investigators have yet to confirm what caused it.
The blaze flared up on Saturday and forced investigators to leave the area, but Cpl. Craig Douglass, a spokesman for the Prince George RCMP, said they have since been able to return.
Douglass wouldn't confirm whether the RCMP now suspect the fire was an arson. He reiterated an earlier plea for anyone with any information on the fire to phone the detachment or leave an anonymous tip through CrimeStoppers.
Lightning fuelled a cluster of seven fires in the central Cariboo region on the long weekend, including a 30,000 square-metre blaze near Anahim Lake.
All the new fires are either extinguished or under control.
About 25 lightning-caused fires have cropped up across the province so far this season, among the 186 wildfires crews have fought.
Around 270 square kilometres have burned so far, Skrepnek said, including the area consumed by the Little Bobtail fire.
Last year, the province spent $298 million fighting wildfires, more than four times the yearly allocation of $63 million.
With files from Mike Hagar