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What’s the NWT fire situation at the start of the week?

Fire 7 to the south of Highway 5 outside Fort Smith is seen in a Sentinel-2 satellite image on August 5, 2023.
Fire 7 to the south of Highway 5 outside Fort Smith is seen in a Sentinel-2 satellite image on August 5, 2023.

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Yes, it’s a long weekend, but residents in places like Yellowknife, Inuvik and Fort Smith might not find themselves fully rested with wildfires nearby.

As the new week begins, here’s a quick rundown of the main fires attracting attention across the territory.

There are more than 200 active fires right now, so this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything burning in the NWT. The NWT Fire website has more detail and you can also use our map to track burn areas and fire hot-spots.

Yellowknife

Fire ZF015, the one that caused Behchokǫ̀’s evacuation and is parked west of Yellowknife, is not likely to do much worth worrying about in the next few days.

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On the Yellowknife end, NWT Fire expects the wind to blow the fire back west “for the next few days,” meaning ZF015 will be pushed into areas it has already burned and won’t come closer to the city. As of Sunday, the fire’s closest point to Yellowknife was 35 km from the municipal boundary.

You are likely to see work on Yellowknife’s western edge to build fire breaks and install sprinklers. The city says this is precautionary.

Along the highway, Boundary Creek’s evacuation order was downgraded to an alert over the weekend, meaning residents can go back but must be ready to leave again at short notice. Highway 3 was open throughout Sunday, check the GNWT’s highway conditions page for the latest.

On the Behchokǫ̀ end, there was no suggestion from NWT Fire on Sunday that the change in wind meant increased danger to the community.

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“Crews continue to work around Behchokǫ̀ (Frank Channel) to mop up and put out any remaining hot-spots,” wildfire information officer Frank McKay said by email.

Fire activity for ZF015 is expected “to be minimal” for the next few days, McKay wrote. More than 130 people are working on the fire.

Meanwhile, fire ZF011 – the one along Duncan Lake and near Yellow Dog Lodge – continues to burn but hasn’t progressed significantly toward Yellowknife.

As of Sunday evening, ZF011 had burned 24,000 hectares. The fire was reported to be 20 km north of the Ingraham Trail and 19 km north of Hidden Lake Territorial Park, with aircraft working on it.

Fire ZF085 (yes, you thought that leading 0 was superfluous but we might get to 100 fires in one region this year) isn’t anywhere near Yellowknife but is only five kilometres from Hearn Lake Lodge at its closest point, NWT Fire said.

“It will continue to be monitored. Plumes of smoke can be seen in the area. No threats to communities, cabins, or infrastructure at this time,” the wildfire agency reported on Sunday.

Inuvik

Inuvik has suffered some intensely smoky days lately, and attention is on EV014, a fire now estimated to be 22 km northeast of the town.

EV014 had burned 9,000 hectares as of Sunday evening. Air tankers are attacking the fire’s south side.

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“No threats to communities, cabins, or infrastructure at this time,” NWT Fire wrote.

The Town of Inuvik lifted its fire ban on Friday but still warned residents to use fires for “cooking or warmth only” and take great care in conditions of high to extreme fire danger.

Note that the Dempster Highway was closed on the Yukon side as of Sunday evening because of a separate fire.

Fort Smith

There wasn’t a great deal of change in Fort Smith’s situation over the weekend.

Fire SS022 to the north is holding at about 25 km from the town, while Fire 7 inside Wood Buffalo National Park to the south hasn’t moved nearer the highway and is some 30 km from Fort Smith at its closest point.

Highway 5 is “not currently at risk,” Fort Smith’s protective services division stated, adding: “There is little rain in the forecast and warmer weather continues. North winds may push smoke south toward the town. Stay indoors and keep your windows closed during periods of dense smoke.”

The NWT’s health authority said services are gradually resuming at the town’s health centre, where some services had been reduced at the time the town initially moved to an evacuation notice.

Fort Providence

A wildfire that was quite small but fairly close to Fort Providence – 12 km away – has now been declared out.

Tulita

Wildfires burning for weeks in the vicinity of Tulita are “still active but showing minimal growth and in directions away from the community,” NWT Fire reported on Sunday.