05/18/2015 10:34 EDT | Updated 05/18/2016 05:59 EDT

Little Bobtail Lake fire grows again

A massive wildfire burning southwest of Prince George, which has forced 80 people from their homes, grew another 1,000 hectares Monday and now covers a radius of 250 square kilometres.

The Little Bobtail Lake forest fire grew by 40 per cent over the weekend. The fire service had been hoping that wetter weather expected in the region between now and Thursday would give firefighters a bit of a break.

But scattered showers on Monday also brought thunderstorms and gusting winds which instead helped the fire expand. 

Melissa Klassen, a fire information officer with the province's Wildfire Management Branch says the fire now covers 25,000 hectares and is only 15 percent contained. More scattered showers are in the forecast up until and including Thursday, but Klassen said it would take at least a day or two of steady rain for weather to have a significant effect.

Criminal investigation launched

Meanwhile RCMP have classified the fire as human-caused and have launched a criminal investigation. They are also calling on the public to help them find who was responsible.

Possible penalties for starting a wildfire are steep, and include up to $1 million in fines, a year in prison, as well as costs associated with fighting the fire said Klassen.

More than 300 personnel are on site in the Little Bobtail Lake area including 270 firefighters, 13 helicopters, more than 30 pieces of heavy equipment. Up to eight air tankers are also standing by.

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.