A growing wildfire south of the Dehcho community of Sambaa K’e has become so intense that crews had to be pulled back.
The NWT government says fire FS001, which began burning a little over a week ago, is 50 km south of Sambaa K’e and has so far burned 5,698 hectares.
The fire is one of a string that developed over the past week in the Dehcho’s unusually searing May heat. Yet with most of those fires far from any community, the territory’s attention has remained on the wildfire that triggered evacuations of Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation earlier this month.
Fire FS001 is nearly twice the size of the Hay River-KFN fire but has remained far enough from Sambaa K’e that there is, to date, no suggestion that residents should be concerned.
However, the nine active wildfires the NWT now faces – five of them more than 1,000 hectares in size, and all of those considered out of control – add to an increasingly complex picture with southern reinforcements hard to come by, given how strained some provinces’ resources already are.
What’s particularly odd is the time of year. The territory’s wildfire agency is used to coping with multiple large fires spread across large, mostly unpopulated areas, but not ordinarily in the middle of May.
More than 16,000 hectares of the NWT had burned by Monday. The territory didn’t hit that figure until June 24 last year – more than a month later – and June 28 in 2021. In 2020, an extremely quiet summer, the NWT didn’t reach 16,000 hectares burned until the end of July.
FS001 was caused by lightning, the Department of Environment and Climate Change says.
“Crews were pulled off due to increased fire intensity and risk,” the department said of FS001 on its website on Monday.
“It is not being actioned at this time, it will be monitored for potential future actions. Crews continue to assess and work on community protection fuel breaks.”
Meanwhile, another lightning-caused fire around 85 km west of Wrigley has burned 2,769 hectares so far. That fire, FS004, is being monitored according to the department and no cabins or infrastructure are at risk.
Southwest of that fire, on the border of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, two other fires – one around 1,000 hectares in size, the other 150 hectares – are burning far from any infrastructure or communities.
Completing a chain of four wildfires in the region is fire FS002, a lightning-caused fire that has burned 200 hectares and is currently about 35 km west of Cli Lake and Little Doctor Lake, north of Nahanni Butte.
The fire is “being monitored to protect values in the area,” the department stated.
Several of the Dehcho fires had already been burning for a week or so. They were added to the NWT’s tally of fires and area burned over the long weekend.
Elsewhere, a brush fire was reported in Fort Smith on Monday but appeared to be quickly dealt with by firefighters.
The two largest fires in the South Slave are the Hay River-KFN fire, at 3,209 hectares burned as of Monday, and fire SS004, 100 km west of Kakisa, which has now burned 3,400 hectares.
There are no active fires in the North Slave, Sahtu or Beaufort Delta.