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Out-of-control fire persists at Reid Lake
No cabins or lodges threatened but firefighting crews closely monitoring blaze about 60 kilometres east of the city

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fire crews continue to closely monitor a stubborn forest fire about 60 kilometres east of Yellowknife.

NNSL photo/graphic

A forest fire burns earlier this month on the opposite shore of the lake earlier this month from the Hearne Lake Lodge, about 60 km east of Yellowknife. The fire is still burning out of control and has now consumed more than 120 square kilometres of forest but is no longer threatening the two lodges in the area. - photo courtesy of Edie Dul

Richard Olsen, manager of fire operations for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said crews with the department are managing the fire, which is about 15 to 20 kilometres southeast of Reid Lake, down the Ingraham Trail. It is the same fire that earlier this summer was threatening Namushka Lodge on Harding Lake and was burning about a kilometre across the lake from Hearne Lake Lodge.

"The fire is currently out of control. All direct action has been completed on that fire. We are set up, and if need be, we'll be looking at doing some ignition (back burn) operations to contain the fire growth within its current size limits," Olsen said.

The fire, which covers a little more than 120 square kilometres, has been burning since the end of June, Olsen said. He added neither of the two lodges are now under threat.

"It's considered out of control because the entire perimeter has not been contained. The fire itself is several thousand hectares in size, it's a rather large fire," Olsen said. "Our main objective with that fire is to really prevent it from going north toward the Ingraham Trail and places like Reid Lake and other high concentration, high value areas."

There are some cabins in the area and Olsen said they are working to make sure none are lost to fire. Last summer, Reid Lake Territorial Park campground was evacuated due to a nearby fire on July 6 and then it was turned into a firefighter base. It did not reopen to the public until Aug 3. There are no plans at this point for a similar action, Olsen said.

Some areas near the Ingraham Trail remain among the driest in the territory, he added.

Overall, the forest fire situation remains far less serious than it was last summer but it is still worse than the averages over the past 20 years, Olsen said.

"There have been 207 fires reported to date but just two new fires in the last week. That compares to 284 fires at this time last year," Olsen said. "The area burnt this year is 604,000 hectares (6,040 square kilometres) compared to last year's 1.065 million hectares (10,650 square kilometres)."

Because the fire crews have not been swamped with work over the past week, Olsen said officials have had an opportunity to go look at some of the remote fires that have just been under "monitored" status for some time.

"We've been updating the status of those fires and re-sizing them and a lot of fires have been declared out because of this work," Olsen said.

There are no longer any firefighters from other provinces or territories working in the NWT.

"We still have our full contingent of 28 crews on this week as well as four air-tanker groups and six helicopters in place," Olsen said.

"We are at the point over the next week or so where our normal season in some places will be winding down and we'll be looking at whether we need to extend crews for possible work in the NWT or for possible export to help crews down south."

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