The Department of Environment and Climate Change’s (ECC) manager of fire operations has said that most of the NWT will be under extreme conditions until the end of May.

The department’s fire behaviour staff forecasted the potential for more fires and more extreme fires this season based on last year’s indication of increased surface fuels and duff layers that dried out by the end of the last season.

Richard Olsen said given that conditions are dry, they are monitoring for holdover fires, which are fires that burn fuel sources underground and persist from year to year.

He said that the direction of wind and rain will dictate what wildfire events are going to happen day by day.

“Our folks are actively involved right now in making sure we have all the right people in all the right places,” he said.

According to Olsen, ECC has 34 four-person crews, which is a total of 136 firefighters. There are also approximately 100 other people actively involved in fire operations on a daily basis and 200 extra firefighters that are spread across the NWT who can provide aid when needed.

Olsen said that $1.5 million has been spent over the last decade on putting out fires caused by people, and that approximately 10 per cent of fires caused in the NWT are caused by people and 90 per cent are caused by lightning striking trees.

According to an article from The Canadian Press late last month, 78 wildfires were burning across Alberta as of May 5 and more than 13,000 people were ordered to leave their homes.

A lot of work is being done with emergency management agencies, Department of Health and Social Services, and Indigenous governments about how they can work together to prevent and mitigate wildfires, he said.

Olsen said the forest fire management policy is what most of their decision making is based off of.

“We always have to find that balance between which fires have to be fought and which fires should not be interfered with so that they can maintain the healthy and natural ecological state of the forest,” he said.

He also reminds residents that a permit is required to have a fire during this season.

In 2022, 262 wild fires burnt approximately 581 hectares, said Olsen.

To report a forest fire call 1-877-698-3473. The line is available 24 hours a day.

Jonathan Gardiner

After a tough break looking for employment in Alberta, I moved to Yellowknife in 2017 and became a multimedia journalist in 2022. I enjoy the networking side of my job, and I also aspire to write my...

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