NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Multiple forest fires spread in NWT
More than 20 reported burning in territory over weekend

Candace Thomson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Twenty-three forest fires were burning across the NWT over the weekend, bringing the tally up to 133 fires in 2013 so far, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' website.

Smoke drifting into Yellowknife from a fire burning 32 km east of Behchoko on Sunday worried some Yellowknifers but firefighters had it under control by Monday morning, said Richard Olsen, territorial duty officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

There were 11 fires burning in the North Slave region over the weekend, all of which were being handled, assessed or monitored by the department, he said. The North Slave region has seen 39 fires so far this year, 29 of which are still burning, according to Judy McLinton, communications manager for the department.

One of those fires burned about 60 hectares around Johnston Lake starting on Monday, some 50 km North of Yellowknife. Olsen said on Tuesday the fire had doubled in size since Monday and that firefighters had to pull back and monitor before assessing the risk to the Yellow Dog Lodge on Duncan Lake about 18 km away and a number of nearby cabins.

McLinton said the department could not verify the number of cabins at risk but said firefighters were in the process of contacting the owners. She said firefighters had placed sprinklers around the cabins and had moved brush from areas that could be ignited by the fire.

Johnston Lake is near a gold exploration site run by the Tyhee Mining Corporation, but Doug Levesque, vice-president of operations, said the fire is not affecting them.

"The guys could see the smoke last night but it's quite a ways south," said Levesque. "We're keeping in touch with the fire service and Air Tindi flies over often, so we're getting updates from them."

Levesque estimated the fire to be between 30 and 45 km south of the company's exploration camp.

Another fire is burning 20 km North of Fort Providence, which could cause smoky conditions for drivers on Highway 3 due to strong winds blowing from the west.

Olsen said none of the fires were an immediate risk to Yellowknife, but cautioned residents to be careful with any sort of fire.

"We have really dry, extreme conditions for the next few days, so people should not light a fire if they don't need it," said Olsen. "We also have to consider the safety of our firefighters when we have these conditions."

He asked that residents report all forest fires to the NWT fire line.

Compared to the average over the last 25 years, McLinton said the number of forest fires is up for 2013. She said more dry lightning and wind was on the way for the next few days, and that the department expects the number of fires to go up, despite the small respite of rain Tuesday afternoon.

"Even though we have little bit of rain, it's extremely dry and we haven't had substantial rain for quite a while now," she said.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.