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Canadian Armed Forces mobilizing, will reach NWT on Tuesday

The headquarters of Joint Task Force North in Yellowknife
The headquarters of Joint Task Force North in Yellowknife. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio


The Northwest Territories has had a request for federal wildfire help accepted and the Canadian Armed Forces will mobilize in the territory.

Military reinforcements will arrive on Tuesday, the federal government told Cabin Radio.

The announcement from federal ministers came as the NWT descended into crisis on Sunday, with evacuation orders for most of the South Slave, Jean Marie River and some homes north of Yellowknife.

There are more than 230 active fires still burning at a time of year when the northern wildfire season normally wraps up.



“Yesterday we received, and have now approved, a request for federal assistance from the Government of the Northwest Territories,” federal emergency preparedness minister Harjit Sajjan said on Saturday.

“I’ve spoken with Minister Thompson and assured him that the federal government is here to support their efforts to combat wildfires threatening communities,” said Sajjan, referring to NWT environment minister Shane Thompson. “The Canadian Armed Forces are mobilizing and ready to assist.”

Bill Blair, the minister of national defence, said: “We stand with the people of the Northwest Territories as they deal with serious wildfires. In response to a request for assistance, the Canadian Armed Forces will help with firefighting efforts, air transportation, and planning, coordination and logistics.”

The scale of that deployment was not immediately clear. The NWT government has been approached for more information.



A Department of National Defence spokesperson told Cabin Radio that most of the Canadian Armed Forces deployment will arrive on Tuesday and remain in the NWT for at least two weeks, but did not state the size of the group.

“Soldiers will be drawn from the 2nd Canadian Division, based out of CFB Valcartier, primarily from the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment. Firefighting training for the deploying troops will take place in Valcartier in the coming days,” the spokesperson wrote.

“In the meantime, an advance reconnaissance team is already on the ground in Yellowknife and coordinating with the Government of the Northwest Territories and Joint Task Force North.”

The territory has already spent more than $30 million fighting this summer’s fires.

While Canada as a whole is experiencing a fire season six times worse than average, and easily the worst on record, the season in the territory is verging on cataclysmic for its impact on communities, seven of which have now been forced to flee oncoming fires.

Disruption on that level hasn’t been recorded before in the territory, not even in 2014, the record wildfire season, when more than three million hectares burned but an evacuation of Kakisa was the only instance in which a community had to flee.

Earlier this month, Thompson said the NWT had all the personnel it needed to fight fires and was actively trying to acquire more helicopters.

But since then, the task has only grown larger, with more fires added to the list by the day, dry conditions continuing for the most part, and now multiple communities ordered to leave.

Emily Blake contributed reporting.