A map showing the extent of the Wood Buffalo complex. Photo courtesy Parks Canada
A map showing the extent of the Wood Buffalo complex. Photo courtesy Parks Canada

A wildfire ravaging Wood Buffalo national park is now 408,803 hectares in size and is four kilometres south of Fort Smith.

An update was posted to the Wood Buffalo National Park, Parks Canada social media feed at 11:17 a.m. Aug. 19.

Formerly known as Parks Canada Fire 7, Alberta Wildfire MNZ003 and NWT Wildfire SS069, the fire has been renamed the Woof Buffalo Complex. The fire has now been put under a Unified Command between the GNWT, the Alberta government and Parks Canada.

“This decision was made to create a safer environment to work on the wildfire as all agencies know where all resources are working,” reads the update. “This also allows for better utilization of resources so that operations can work in tandem, rather than working around each other.

“Thanks to the increased humidity, light rain and a change in wind direction the, Wood Buffalo Complex wildfire has had minimal growth over the past four days and has given us the opportunity to make progress on the wildfire.

“Over the coming days, crews will work to complete a continuous control line using mechanical guards, sprinkler lines and natural features that runs south of Highway 5 from Salt River all the way to Fort Fitzgerald. Structural protection personnel will finish work in the Bell Rock area today and will begin setting up in the Tamarack area. In the coming days, teams will work towards having all structural protection or natural control lines around all values at risk between Salt River and Fort Fitzgerald.

“Crews tested the opportunity to conduct a strategic micro-ignition yesterday near Highway 5 and Salt River, however relative humidity and cooler temperatures did not provide the necessary conditions to conduct this work. The team will continue to look for opportunities to gently bring the fire to natural fire break features. Removing fuel prior to an approaching fire can slow down the spread of fire once it joins up with the burned area.”

Operating out of Fort Smith, 250 personnel operating 55 pieces of heavy equipment and 25 helicopters are responding to the wildfire.

Fort Smith and Fort Fitzgerald remain under evacuation order and a state of local emergency. Highway 5 is closed from Hay River to Fort Smith and it remains unsafe for residents to return to either.

While the main plant in Fort Smith has shut down, auxiliary power remains active in the town east of Trout Street. Cell phone service has been restored. Potable water and emergency health services remain in place.

Eric Bowling

Breaking News Reporter and Digital Editor for NNSL, Eric operates out of Inuvik in the Beaufort Delta. He's four years into his Northern adventure and is eager to learn more about life in the Arctic Circle....

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