A view of fire ZF015 from the highway on July 26, 2023. Photo: Hans deHaas
A wildfire burning around Behchokǫ̀ has reached Frank Channel but has not crossed to Edzo on the channel’s far side, the NWT’s wildfire agency said late on Wednesday.
By email, wildfire information officer Mike Westwick said the fire had arrived at Frank Channel but had not spotted across – via embers or the like – to reach Edzo.
Most of Edzo lies a couple of kilometres west of the Frank Channel bridge.
Earlier on Wednesday, asked if the bridge – which is old and in need of replacement – is capable of standing up to extreme fire behaviour, the NWT government said it was monitoring the situation but did not elaborate.
“At this point, it’s probably a little bit premature without fully understanding what the fire activity is,” said Tracy St Denis, an assistant deputy minister, adding that the bridge is “front of mind.”
The bridge carries Highway 3 across the channel and is the only road link between the North Slave communities to its east and the south of Canada.
Anyone remaining in Edzo is being urged to move to muster points like North Arm Park outside the community.
There were no further wildfire-related home losses up to Wednesday evening after the three reported in Rae that morning, the NWT’s wildfire agency said.
However, fire crews were reported to have dealt with “major flare-ups” around Rae and Highway 3 in extreme fire conditions driven by a second day of east winds, leading to “heavy smoke and intense fire burning through the tops of trees.”
Those types of fire, known as crown fires, are among the most dangerous to fight and predict. They can race over long distances in short periods of time, which may have been what helped to drive the fire’s extraordinary Tuesday run at Behchokǫ̀.
“Tomorrow, more favourable winds expected, shifting from southeasterly in the morning to southwesterly by afternoon,” NWT Fire’s Wednesday evening update read, meaning the fire should be pushed north, away from immediate trouble.
“This should give an opportunity to get good work done as this will take the pressure off the highway and populated areas,” the update concluded.