An airtanker drops water over the east end of wildfire ZF015 near Behchokǫ̀ on August 2, 2023. Photo: GNWT
As residents of Rae return home more than a week after a wildfire forced them to evacuate, NWT Fire says the coming days will be “crucial” in managing the fire.
Wildfire ZF015 has burned more than 113,000 hectares in and near Behchokǫ̀, destroying 19 structures in its path including four homes in Rae. It is still considered out-of-control and burning four kilometres east of Edzo and around 42 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.
Residents of Rae were allowed to return to the community, which crews have secured a perimeter around, on Thursday morning. They remain on evacuation alert, meaning they should be prepared to leave again if conditions worsen.
People were previously allowed to return to Edzo earlier in the week, where NWT Fire said the risk is “extremely low.” Residents are not yet able to return to Frank Channel.
Helped by rainfall over the weekend, the wildfire has seen little growth this week, recently moving two to three kilometres east. While the territory’s wildfire agency reported high temperatures and dry conditions on Wednesday, they said easterly winds would likely push the fire toward areas that had already burned.
In a Thursday update, NWT Fire said the wildfire is expected to become much more active and it could grow to the south and east with northwesterly winds anticipated for Friday.
“Our number one priority in the coming days will be doing everything we can to slow its growth in that direction,” the update states.
“Friday may be a very challenging day.”
NWT Fire said crews will hit the east side of the fire “with as much airtanker action as possible.” They are also working to cool down hotspots near Frank Channel.
Crews have already completed a fire retardant line from Great Slave Lake north to previously burned areas.