Storm clouds at the edge of a wildfire-generated storm gather beyond Yellowknife's sandpits on July 12, 2022. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Délı̨nę and Wrigley were placed under smoke advisories by Environment Canada on Thursday as wildfires burn across much of the NWT’s Dehcho, Sahtu, North Slave and South Slave.
Smoke advisories are now in place for 18 of the territory’s 33 communities. In the Dehcho, Fort Liard, Sambaa K’e and Nahanni Butte aren’t warned of local smoke but are all under a separate heat warning.
Smoke mapping suggests fires near Wrigley and Fort Smith are responsible for much of the smoke circulating in the southern NWT, though a complex of fires west of Highway 1 near the Alberta border is also contributing.
The same maps forecast little relief this coming weekend, though rain is expected in parts of the North Slave, Sahtu and Dehcho.
Communities under smoke advisories as of Thursday morning are Behchokǫ̀, Délı̨nę, Dettah, Enterprise, Fort Providence, Fort Resolution, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Hay River, Jean Marie River, Kakisa, the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Łútsël K’é, Ndilǫ, Wekweètì, Whatì, Wrigley and Yellowknife.
Those advisories warn: “Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches or shortness of breath. Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk. If you or someone in your care develop symptoms, reduce strenuous outdoors activities wherever possible until the air quality improves.
“When outdoors, if your breathing becomes difficult or uncomfortable, stop or reduce strenuous physical activities. If you experience irritation of eyes, nose or throat, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms, you should take action to reduce your exposure to smoke.
“If you are feeling unwell and experiencing symptoms, contact your healthcare provider for advice.”
The NWT is having its busiest wildfire season in the past five years, though the area burned is comparable to the 25-year average and well below the millions of hectares burned in summers like 2014.
As of Wednesday, 429,000 hectares were reported burned in the NWT, slightly over the 419,000-hectare 25-year average for a summer. About a month of the ordinary season is left to run.
The NWT has been by far the heaviest-hit jurisdiction for wildfires this summer, accounting for roughly a third of the area burned across Canada. Saskatchewan, at 235,000 hectares burned to date, is second on the list.