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NWT Wildfires: Perimeters near Fort Smith and Fort Fitzgerald under control

A portion of the Wood Buffalo Complex wildfire has been brought under control.
An off-road firefighting engine extinguishing hot spots. Photo courtesy Wood Buffalo National Park

A portion of the Wood Buffalo Complex wildfire has been brought under control.

Officials gave an update at a 4 p.m. press conference Sept. 11.

”We’re far from out of the woods,” said NWT Wildfire information officer Mike Westwick. “They’ve been working on hotspots on the perimeter and years to Fort Fitzgerald.

“They’re continuing to work towards getting to a position where that line is more secure and Fort Fitzgerald is in a better place than it is today. The most significant fire activity observed yesterday on Highway five and the team there has been hitting that with aircraft and they’re continuing to work to address those as they move forward. Again, and there’s some pretty challenging conditions.

“In Fort Smith, we’re seeing even warmer way we’re seeing even hotter weather even more relentless and seasonal weather. After this time of year, we’re seeing temperatures in the high 20s. We’re seeing winds from the self testing 35 to 40 kilometers an hour or so. And we’re expecting to see those conditions continue for at least the next couple of days. All of this makes for really challenging fires to manage, and that team that is dedicated every single moment to helping support a safe return for everybody there.”

Perimeters south of Fort Smith and closest to Fort Fitzgerald are now considered under control. However, increased fire activity has been observed along Highway 5. The Wood Buffalo Complex is estimated at 475,732 hectares in size. There are 358 personnel responding to the fire, including 59 pieces of heavy equipment, 18 helicopters and 185 firefighters and structural protection specialists.

Details of the latest work on the complex were provided by the Wood Buffalo National Park daily wildfire update.

“As of yesterday, 22 km of the northern fire perimeter is considered controlled,” said Wood Buffalo National Park fire information officer James Eastham. “A controlled fire perimeter is the portion of fire perimeter that has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread of fire. 80 km of the northern perimeter is considered contained. A contained fire perimeter is the portion of the fire perimeter that is not expected to spread given current resource commitments and forecasted weather and fire behaviour conditions.”

However, temperatures in the high 20s and winds up to 40 kilometres per hour have led to increased fire activity in the area. The region continues to be under extreme drought conditions, with a drought code over 1,100, shattering the previous drought record of 840. Anything higher than 340 is considered an extreme drought.

“While the threat to Fort Smith continues to reduce thanks to the hard work of firefighters, and we’re getting closer, we aren’t at the point where it’s safe for all public to return yet,” said Eastham. “Until essential services are re-established, the community can not support re-entry and an anticipated re-entry date for all public to return is yet to be determined.

“Structure protection in the Thebacha, Fort Fitzgerald and Bell Rock areas will remain until the threat lowers. Fire personnel continue to make good progress on the eastern and northwestern lines close to these communities, where there are still some active areas. A recommendation will be made to the remaining communities as progress is made.”

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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