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Small fire at Airport Lake
Carelessness given as cause by regional manager of forests

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Thursday, May 28, 2015

Despite the unseasonably warm weather, the Inuvik region currently is in little danger of facing any forest fires.

Martin Callaghan, the regional manager of forests for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said his staff were called to a fire at Airport Lake during the morning of May 20.

It turned out to be a campfire that hadn't been put out when the people left, he said, which is a relatively common occurrence locally.

That doesn't mean it's not cause for concern, though, he said.

"It's nothing to get too excited over, but we started getting complaints about it last night. It is an offence to leave a fire unattended."

The crew quickly handled the fire.

"Someone was out there drinking and having a party, I guess, and it was left unattended and a big mess was left behind," Callaghan said. "We encourage all people, when they're having campfires, to make sure that it's put out and please clean up your mess afterwards. It's an eyesore, and it can cause great expense for us to send out a fire crew. That's something we'd like to avoid."

Callaghan was clear that it's frustrating that most fires are caused by people who don't take the proper precautions.

"It's just carelessness. There's been no lightning in the forecast, and it's really the person-caused fires we're trying to reduce. When people are careless out in the woods, fires get started, and it costs a fair bit of money and manpower to put these things out. We want to avoid that at all costs."

He was also concerned about the environmental damage caused by the people at the site.

"They cut down a bunch of green trees as well, and that's something else we try to reduce, because it takes a long time for these trees to grow so far north. Cutting down green trees just isn't good."

Aside from the damage to the land that occurred, Callaghan said he found it concerning to think that the people partying in the location likely drove back into town afterwards.

Despite that, the situation in the Inuvik region is looking much better than in the bone-dry southern NWT.

"It's not all that serious for now, but we're not looking too far ahead. It's been pretty dry here, but we had roughly 144 per cent above our 32-year average for snow cover, which is the water content held in the snow," Callaghan said. "So the snow was very dense this winter with lots of water."

That's likely partly attributable to a "relatively mild" winter this year, Callaghan said. While the volume of the snow perhaps didn't look as significant as in past years, it was saturated with water, rather than the drier, fluffier snow that's more typical.

"It's still running off," Callaghan added, "with lot of little rivers and creeks flooding. So the ground is very wet, and there is still random patches of snow around, so it's not really all that dry."

With temperatures running 20 degrees above normal, that's good news or the fire threat would be up, Callaghan added.

"But being this close to the coast and the ocean, a north wind can come up any time and blow all the hot air away and giving us showers and cool temperatures almost immediately."

As an example, on May 19 temperatures dropped about 10 degrees within the space of an hour as a cold front swept in, he said.

"We're just taking it day to day, though," Callaghan said.

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