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New wildfire east of Fort Smith as Wood Buffalo closes Pine Lake

An image posted to Wood Buffalo National Park's Facebook page on May 30, 2023 shows wildfires within the park.

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A new wildfire identified around 45 kilometres east of Fort Smith is “being assessed,” the territorial government said on Thursday.

Fire SS010 was first recorded on Wednesday. The territory’s wildfire agency says there is no threat to the community. A more detailed assessment is expected later on Thursday.

While various fires are active in the South Slave and within the nearby Wood Buffalo National Park, and Fort Chipewyan to the south was the subject of an evacuation order this week, there are no fires directly threatening Fort Smith as of Thursday.

Adam McNab, the Town of Fort Smith’s director of protective services, told CBC Northbeat the town will “carry out some larger firesmart work around the community” in the near future, including fire breaks along the town’s southern border and to the west of the Bell Rock subdivision.

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McNab said the town was also working with contractors on “targeted timber harvesting that will effectively create fire breaks while producing firewood for the local community, which is always a need.”

Meanwhile, Parks Canada has closed the Pine Lake area of Wood Buffalo National Park, a popular recreation spot southwest of Fort Smith.

The federal agency said the closure, which came into effect at 10am on Thursday, was in response to a wildfire around 11 km southwest of Pine Lake as of Wednesday evening.

“People in the Pine Lake area of Wood Buffalo National Park are being asked to leave the area as a precautionary measure,” Parks Canada stated. The closure is in place from Parson’s Lake Road to Peace Point and includes Pine Lake’s private cabins, rental cabins, campground and Kettle Point.

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The fire in question, Fire 2, was estimated on Thursday to have burned 2,600 hectares.

“There are three helicopters, a water tender, two dozers and 16 fire personnel responding to this fire,” Parks Canada said on Thursday.

“Air tankers may be used, if available. Efforts are focused on limiting spread and trying to contain the northern and eastern sides of the fire. Yesterday, fire behaviour was extreme and when coupled with poor visibility, created many challenges with suppression efforts.”

Parks Canada said an additional crew including four fire specialists is set to join the 44 personnel and five helicopters already working in the park, where 14 fires have so far been confirmed.