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Before and after: Yellowknife’s massive fire breaks

A fire break on Yellowknife's western perimeter is seen in a Sentinel-2 satellite image from August 25, 2023.
A fire break on Yellowknife's western perimeter is seen in a Sentinel-2 satellite image from August 25, 2023.


There are lots of ways of looking at Yellowknife’s huge new fire breaks: essential protection, for sure. Perhaps new Ski-Doo trails in the making. A massive future dog park, maybe.

One of the best ways to look at them? From space.

The Sentinel-2 satellite allows us to track the stunningly swift change in the city’s landscape from almost directly above – demonstrating how Yellowknife’s western flank has been forever altered.

Below, use the slider to toggle between Yellowknife on August 8 on the left, well before this work began in earnest, and Yellowknife on August 25 on the right.



What should you be looking for?

Big brown lines, frankly. Watch for areas of green turning to massive stretches of brown, up against neighbourhoods on the western edge of Yellowknife or in the forest beyond.

You’ll see the road out to the sewage lagoon suddenly has a huge flattened border, and perpendicular to that is a giant fire break cut between two lakes to act as a first line of defence.

Behind that, a trail leading from Highway 3 to the Engle Business District has been widened into a gigantic fire break more than the size of a soccer field in width and stretching for kilometres.



Drone footage of sprinkler systems and more details from crew members who built the defences.

The business district itself has a huge defensive perimeter cut into its north, west and south sides. With the help of a lake or two, that protection extends down to two more large fire breaks defending Kam Lake. You can’t quite see them, but there are fire breaks covering Grace Lake, too.

You’ll see extra protection all along Deh Cho Boulevard, along a stretch of the road past the dump and the Jackfish power plant, and in a corner of Range Lake, too.

This view doesn’t show the many sprinkler and water cannon systems also installed. To see those, watch our video with some of the crew that built everything.

Dettah’s fire break

Dettah’s landscape has changed, too.

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation community has built its own giant fire break to the north.

Skipping between these images from August 8 (left) and August 25, you can see that fire break grow significantly to the east of the Dettah access road.

So far, smoke over Hay River and Fort Smith has made it harder to produce similar views for the changes in those two areas. We’ll keep studying new satellite imagery as it becomes available.