A firefighter at work outside Behchokǫ̀ in July 2023. Photo: GNWT
With Behchokǫ̀ evacuated, Inuvik and Fort Smith carefully monitoring nearby fires and Yellowknife residents inspecting emergency plans, the NWT government appealed for anyone willing to help to come forward.
On Saturday, the territory’s wildfire service asked anyone with basic firefighting training who is not already part of its team to come forward if they can.
“The NWT is experiencing an extraordinary fire season. There are a number of fires of concern and we need your help,” read a post to NWT Fire’s Facebook page.
If you have taken S-131 training – a basic 12-hour course – in the past two years, or completed the Department of Environment and Climate Change’s own training, the department is asking you to call a regional office and “sign up if you would like to help.”
At the moment, the department is understood to lack the capacity to hold more training sessions in the near future.
But even if you lack any such training, NWT Fire said there are still roles for anyone prepared to drop what they’re doing and sign up.
“if you do not have that training but still want to help, we are also looking for local support staff to help with things like driving, as cooks, and in the camps,” the agency stated.
The measure is a sign of the strain being placed on territorial firefighting resources.
Around 150 active fires are burning in the NWT. Behchokǫ̀ has been evacuated, Fort Smith issued a preliminary notice on Saturday suggesting an evacuation could be possible, Inuvik is closely watching a fire to the northeast, and Yellowknife just published its emergency plan after acknowledging that while the territorial capital isn’t currently threatened, fires to the west and north could become a problem if conditions change.
Firefighters from the likes of Alaska, New Brunswick and Ontario have been drafted in, but there’s little room to bring in more help from across North America as so many other jurisdictions are dealing with fires of their own.