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Slow fire season

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 28/02) - It has been a sluggish forest fire season all across the Northwest Territories this summer thanks to lots of rain and less lightning.

Only 85 fires have been reported to the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development's forest management division this year. The typical average number of forest fires in the NWT hovered between the 300 to 350 range per year, until recent years.

"Basically this is the lowest number of fires that we've had, that I know of, in recorded time. Our numbers are very low. We don't have the drought conditions that we typically are used to having," said Dave Hahn, fire duty officer for the forest management division.

Unseasonably cool temperatures and high amounts of precipitation have contributed to keeping the forests safe from fire damage.

"Certainly in the South Slave region we've had quite a bit of rain and it's interspersed right across the entire summer. We would have it every day, or every other day we would get some kind of rainfall. So our forest itself has been a lot damper with more moisture deep in the ground," said Hahn.

Arctic Weather Centre meteorologist Yvonne Bilan-Wallace said precipitation has been high and lightning activity low this year, resulting in fewer forest fires.

"In the territories the vast majority of your fires are all caused by lightning. You have had a lot of precipitation, there's no doubt about that, and I'm sure it's helped any fires that have been started," she said.

The number of days lightening struck this year is at a record low: 72 days compared to the 95-day average, said Environment Canada's climate processes meteorologist Bob Kochtubajda.

Forest fire activity is expected to remain very low for the remainder of the summer. Hahn said there may be a few more small fires, but unless they are close to a community they will not be significant.

- with files from Jennifer McPhee