Fire bans have now been put in place in two South Slave communities, following last week’s battle with out of control wildfires near High Level.

A fire burning 60 kilometres south of Fort Resolution on August 12. The fire crossed over the NWT border from Wood Buffalo National Park and was 40 square kilometres as of August 12. The fire was one of a group of fires burning in the South Slave that resulted in thick billowing smoke drifting through the region up to the North Slave resulting in high risk air quality readings for Yellowknife, Fort Resolution, Lutsel K’e, Fort Smith, Wekweeti, Whati and Behchoko.
photo courtesy of Department of Environment and Natural Resources

The Town of Fort Smith put in place a full ban on May 21 and a partial ban was put into effect in Hay River on the same day.

Additional fire bans have been put in place for Queen Elizabeth and Little Buffalo River Falls Territorial Parks by NWT Parks due to extremely dry forest conditions.

“Campstoves and enclosed barbecues are permitted,” stated a post by NWT Parks.
“Also permitted is any device that uses propane to supply a burner for heating and/or cooking; such devices when in use must sit within a firepit in a campsite or wayside park and the fire cannot be more than 0.5 metres in diameter and 0.5 metres in height.”

Janice Ziemann, territorial duty officer with Fort Smith Fire Management, said that although there are fire bans in some specific areas, there is no general fire ban in the South Slave are.

“We are still reminding people that if they need to have a fire for cooking or warmth, keep them small and manageable and always put them out,” said Ziemann.

She also said conditions in the South Slave are very dry.

“It has been warm with little precipitation so the risk of fires is high,” she said. “The forecast looks like there will be little-to-no precipitation in the coming days with warming weather early next week.”

Last weekend, three of these fires in the South Slave region were man caused, one being from an errant campfire.

So far there have been 11 fires in the NWT, all of which are now declared out.
Residents travelling south to Alberta are advised there is now gas available in Fort Vermillion on Highway 88, according to Greg Whitlock, regional superintendent with the Department of Infrastructure.

“Tuesday night power was restored to parts of Mackenzie County and by Wednesday morning you could get gas in Fort Vermillion,” said Whitlock.

Fort Vermillion is 390 kilometres south of Hay River.

Highway closures and fire activity have not affected the movement of goods coming north into the Northwest Territories.

“Currently the situation is being held so there are no issues with traffic flow and all goods being shipped North are unaffected,” said Whitlock.

The out of control fires blazing in High Level Alta. caused an evacuation order and residents of Hay River prepared themselves for possible evacuees.

April Martel, chief of K’atl’odeeche First Nation near Hay River, welcomed evacuees to the Dene Wellness Centre.

The High Level fire has been classified as “extreme” and as of May 23, has a burn area of 92,000 hectares.
– with files from Brendan Burke

Brett McGarry

Brett McGarry came to Yellowknife in early 2019 after graduating from Humber College with an advanced diploma in journalism. After covering city council and local business as a reporter, Brett is now an...

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