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Early start for fire crews

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (May 12/06) - Fire crews from Fort Simpson reported to work early this year.

On April 27, the two five-men crews of Nogha 3 and 4 flew to Fort Smith where they joined three crews from that community.

The fire crews spent the day doing recurrent training and covering safety procedures before being flown to Lac LaBiche, Alta., said David Hahn, Territorial Duty Officer for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

May 15 is the normal start date for the Nogha Enterprise crews, said Gilbert Cazon, the assistant general manager. This is the earliest deployment Cazon has seen.

Conditions in Alberta are very dry because of a combination of an early spring, strong winds and unusually low humidity, Hahn said. As a result, approximately a fire a day is developing in the province. Hahn said he can't remember any previous requests for and responses by fire crews this early in the year. But it's not unusual to have fires in southern Canada in May, he said.

Since their original deployment, weather conditions helped put out the fire near Lac LaBiche. The two Fort Simpson crews were relocated to Manning, Alta. while the Fort Smith crews were divided between Fort Vermilion and Rainbow Lake.

The crews are relieving firefighters from Alberta. They have been out on a few fires so far, Hahn said. The firefighters were sent as part of the Canadian Interagency Mutual Aid Resources Sharing agreement. All the reports coming back say that Alberta has been very happy with the crews sent from the Northwest Territories, Hahn said.

"The guys are enjoying it," Cazon, who has been in contact with the crews, said.

This is a good way for the crews to start the season because they are getting to see a variety of bases, Cazon said.

Closer to home, Hahn said it seems like the Deh Cho has had an early spring. Even with the ground still wet, fires can start on the dry grass and spread quickly if there is a wind.

Spring fires, however, are not an indication of how the fire season in the area will shape up, Hahn said. A more accurate idea will be formed after the spring rains.