Fire smoke on the southern edge of Sambaa K'e is seen in a Sentinel-2 satellite image from July 1, 2023.
Lightning strikes from the past week’s storms set off the majority of 24 new wildfires reported over the past seven days, according to NWT government data.
The territory’s fire count this summer leapt from 32 to 56 in the past week, driven by multiple severe thunderstorms.
The North Slave, which began the week with one active fire, now has 16. More than 600,000 hectares have so far burned in the NWT this season, approaching the 709,000 hectares recorded in the entirety of 2022 – itself a slightly above-average year.
Those figures don’t count fires in Wood Buffalo National Park, which itself reported a slew of new fires in recent days, also attributed to lightning.
The park praised its fire crews in a special Sunday evening update, noting that their work had ensured the Pine Lake complex of fires did not burst through a northern fire break over two days of hot, dry weather. Those fires remain no threat to Fort Smith, which lies to the north.
Rain helped in Wood Buffalo National Park on Sunday and also in Wekweètì, whose residents were ordered to leave last week after lightning set off a wildfire two kilometres from homes.
The NWT’s wildfire agency said around eight millimetres of rain fell in the area from Saturday into Sunday. While the fire remains out of control, there was no reported growth.
A fire outside Tulita that caused concern in the community on Friday grew away from the community over the weekend. The territorial government remains confident that a recently burned area between the fire and the hamlet will serve as a “protective barrier” and that Tulita is not threatened.
Similarly, a new fire 70 kilometres south of Tsiigehtchic on Sunday is said to be surrounded by previously burned areas and no threat.
Meanwhile, fire crews quickly brought under control a fire six kilometres east of Highway 1, just north of Alexandra Falls, which had been visible from the road.
In northern BC, Fort Liard residents trying to head home from Fort Nelson were escorted through a wildfire-hit section of BC Highway 77 in brief windows over the weekend. The highway remains otherwise closed.
Lastly, as Sambaa K’e’s residents returned home, the territory’s wildfire agency said the 450,000-hectare fire that had threatened the community “will continue to burn for a long time.”
Having spent a month putting protective measures in place, the territory said crews “will continue to take appropriate action to protect the things people value in its path.”