The federal government is giving the Northwest Territories $20 million for projects that increase protection against wildfires.
The money comes from a disaster mitigation and adaptation fund and is designed to help 29 NWT communities create fire breaks and manage vegetation to lessen the risk posed by fires.
“Once complete, this work will lessen the risk of wildland fires across the territory and will offer tens of thousands of residents improved protection from the devastating impacts of wildfires, safeguarding their homes, businesses, livelihoods and the environment,” the federal government stated in a news release.
Michael McLeod, the NWT’s Liberal MP, said climate-related disasters such as wildfires “are becoming more and more frequent and more severe” in the North, “so we’re furthering our investments in the infrastructure that brings health and strong communities.”
McLeod said the NWT Association of Communities had applied for the funding and more announcements related to similar disaster mitigation projects were coming.
Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty, in her role as president of the NWT Association of Communities, said “chronic underfunding and lack of capacity made it difficult for community governments to address these vulnerabilities independently.”
She said performing similar work on the communities’ own dime would have taken 83 years, but will take less than a decade with the new funding.
So far this year, wildfires in the NWT have burned 522,000 hectares. Some large fires are still burning, triggering a smoke advisory in several communities on Friday.
That’s above the 25-year average of 437,000 hectares but remains well below the several million hectares burned in 2014, considered the territory’s worst wildfire season in living memory.
That summer, the cost of fighting those fires exceeded $56 million.