An outhouse near Prosperous Lake on the evening of August 13, 2023. Photo: Supplied
The NWT’s wildfire agency warned on Sunday that people who own cabins and homes on the north shores of Prosperous Lake and Prelude Lake, as well as anywhere on River Lake, should “leave the area as soon as they can tonight.”
NWT Fire issued the evacuation order shortly after 6pm Sunday saying winds had begun shifting to the northwest sooner than expected. It said that would push the Ingraham Trail wildfire ZF011 to the south and east.
The agency said cabin and homeowners in the area should plan to be gone until at least Thursday as northewest winds are expected to stay through Wednesday.
In an update earlier on Sunday afternoon, NWT Fire had said wildfire ZF011 was burning 18 kilometres north of the Ingraham Trail at its closest point, 12 kilometres from the north end of Prelude Lake and 11 kilometres northeast of Prosperous Lake, distances that were essentially unchanged from Saturday.
However, the agency said the wildfire would grow significantly to the east on Sunday, moving toward Gordon Lake.
NWT Fire said residents of the Ingraham Trail are not at immediate risk from the wildfire but should conduct firesmarting and consider setting up sprinklers. The agency said several cabins near Duncan Lake, Neck Lake and Island Lake remain at risk.
NWT Fire said air tankers and helicopters have completed drops on the southwest corner of the fire, which is its hottest point, in an effort to limit its growth to the south and prepare for severe wind on Monday. Crews are also working to protect structures with a focus on the west shores of Duncan Lake and surrounding lakes.
NWT Fire said gusting winds on Sunday were expected to cause “extreme fire behaviour” in the North Slave.
Some of that felt apparent in Yellowknife on Sunday afternoon, with heavy smoke rolling into the city as wildfires burning in the region grew primarily eastward.
The City of Yellowknife told residents the city was not currently threatened.
It reminded residents that work is underway to increase wildfire protection in the city. It added there is free public access to the fieldhouse, library, and visitor information centre in Yellowknife, to provide people relief from the smoke.
There was no suggestion of any evacuation notice or freshly heightened state of alert, beyond the work already taking place to build precautionary fire breaks and establish sprinklers west of Yellowknife and east of Dettah.
NWT Fire said wildfire ZF085 – the Dettah fire – will also grow significantly to the east on Sunday.
The agency said the wildfire, which has burned 40,925 hectares, was burning 29 kilometres southeast of Dettah and seven kilometres south of Jennejohn Lake – not changed from Saturday – and was not expected to reach the lake. Cabin owners on the north end of Defeat Lake and all of Jennejohn Lake are urged to take firesmart actions, set up sprinklers, and have an evacuation plan.
The agency said Dettah, Ndılǫ, Yellowknife and the Ingraham Trail are not currently at risk, and crews are working with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation to deploy sprinklers and a “high-volume water protection system.”
An ignition operation is being planned for Monday. As a result, cabin owners near Jennejohn Lake, Mason Lake and Defeat Lake are advised to leave no later than 8am on Monday.
Highway 3 closed
Wildfire ZF015, which has burned 136,109 hectares and destroyed 19 structures in Rae and along Highway 3, is still burning 35 kilometres from Yellowknife at its nearest point.
NWT Fire said Sunday’s winds will put pressure on lines to the east of the fire. It said airtankers and helicopters are working to ensure the ignition line stays strong.
On Sunday afternoon, the territorial government announced that Highway 3 was closed between kilometres 246 and 334 due to wildfire. Those travelling in the area are advised that conditions can change quickly with little to no warning.
A fourth wildfire, labelled ZF012, has burned 12,352 hectares and is 59 kilometres north of Yellowknife. NWT Fire said that fire is being monitored and is not currently a threat to any communities or infrastructure.