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Wildfire threatens Hay River and West Point as ‘extreme’ weather conditions take hold Sunday

The Town of Hay River, West Point First Nation and surrounding area may be threatened due to the proximity of a wildfire and Sunday’s extreme weather conditions, NWT Fire advised late Sunday morning.
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Successful firefighting efforts in the Hay River area have allowed crews to focus on protecting the community and surrounding land, according to NWT Fire. A difficult day is expected Sunday with dry conditions, fairly strong gusts and hot temperatures. Photo courtesy of the Town of Hay River

The Town of Hay River, West Point First Nation and surrounding area may be threatened due to the proximity of a wildfire and Sunday’s extreme weather conditions, NWT Fire advised late Sunday morning.

According to the update, the Hay River/K’atl’odeeche/Kakisa Fire (SS052) has grown to 404,154 hectares. It’s currently located approximately 1 km west of the Hay River airport and 1.5 km west of the town centre. The blaze is also located 3 km east of River Woods Estates, 7 km south of K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve residences, 3 km west and 6 km south of Delancey Estates, within 1 km west of West Point First Nation and it has reached Paradise Garden, where structures have been damaged.

Temperatures on Sunday are expected to reach up to 30 C with south-southwesterly winds, gusting up to 40 km/h in the morning and shifting southwesterly at 15km/h in the afternoon. These conditions may cause severe fire activity and support fire growth to the north and east, NWT Fire stated. Firefighting efforts will be focused on addressing these risks. Visibility is a challenge and may make it difficult for aircraft to fly.

However, successful firefighting efforts have allowed crews to focus on protecting the community and surrounding areas. No structural damage has been recorded in any of the most populated residential neighbourhoods in Hay River or to any critical infrastructure, according to NWT Fire. However, some structure loss has been confirmed near the shores of Great Slave Lake.

Kakisa is not at immediate threat due to this wildfire. The Town of Hay River and firefighting team are working closely with the Hamlet of Enterprise, K’atl’odeeche First Nation, and un-incorporated communities nearby in protection and mop-up work.

Crews will continue direct attack along the northwestern portion of the fire Sunday so long as conditions are safe. Additional high volume water equipment is expected to be deployed Sunday to assist in suppressing the fire should it encroach on dozer guards. Structural firefighters are working on hotspots in fire-impacted areas and are at constant readiness for defending against additional encroachment into the town.

Heavy equipment is being used to build dozer guards to the south of Hay River and the K’atl’odeeche First Nation. These guards are created by digging away burnable vegetation to the dirt, providing a defensible area for firefighters and discouraging further growth. Work continues every day to extend and strengthen these guards. Tightlining is also being used at the northwest corner of the fire, nearest to Kakisa, to slow its growth.

Helicopters and airtankers worked aggressively on the northern perimeter of the fire Saturday to reduce fire intensity and slow growth in preparation for potential challenges today. Additional ignition operation opportunities are being explored to burn off vegetation and create stronger protections for the Town of Hay River.