The warm, dry months of summer signal the start of wildfire season in the Northwest Territories, and this year is off to an ‘average’ start, officials say.
There are currently 28 wildfires in the territory affecting around 3818 hectares, or 38.18 square kilometres, of land. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (ENR) wildfire situation report, recent fires were caused by lightning, although a number at the beginning of the season were human-caused.
Amber Simpson, a wildfire information officer for ENR briefed members of the media on the wildfire situation Monday afternoon.
“We’re sitting at about average right now, maybe a little below,” said Simpson, regarding the number of fires this year.
In the South Slave region, there have been ten wildfires to date, affecting 132 hectares. One fire, about 45-km east of Fort Smith, “is being actioned by crews and it is under control at under one hectare,” said Simpson.
Two other fires – one about 60-km southwest of Kakisa, and another 100-km southwest of Kakisa near the NWT-Alberta border – are also being monitored.
The fire danger for the South Slave region is high to extreme today.
In the Dehcho region there have been seven fires to date, affecting 3482 hectares of land. One new fire was reported over the weekend about 15-km northwest of Jean Marie River. The fire is now under control at about 0.3 hectares. Another fire 60-km west of Fort Simpson is four hectares and currently 50 per cent contained, said Simpson.
In the North Slave there have been seven fires to date, affecting 3482 hectares. One fire about 44-km from Wekweeti has grown to about 90 hectares.
“Crews are doing limited action on this fire today,” said Simpson.
Fire danger is low to moderate in the northern portion of the region and high to extreme in the south.
The Sahtu region has had three fires to date, all of which are being monitored.
The fire danger in this region is low to moderate.
There have been no fires in the Inuvik region to date, but the fire danger forecast is high in Inuvik, and medium in Tsiigehtchic and Fort MacPherson for today.
Prelude Lake Fire
A number of concerned citizens banded together to put out a fire near Prelude Lake last week.
But for their own safety, ENR doesn’t promote members of the public putting out fires on their own, said Simpson.
“You need to be really well-versed in fire behaviour and have the proper equipment … so just for the public’s safety, we would ask that you don’t go action fires,” she said.
ENR sent a water bomber to douse the blaze on June 13 but pilots couldn’t see the fire or the smoke due to heavy rain, said Simpson.
ENR makes decisions about monitoring versus fighting fires based on a number of factors, she explained, including how close a fire is to a community or other valuable infrastructure, like highways.
“Also what our fire weather is in the area, where we have crews positioned, there are a lot of factors that go into making these decisions,” said Simpson.
Simpson said the best thing people can do when they spot a wildfire is call the NWT fire line at 1-877-NWT-FIRE or 1-877-698-3473.