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Military says its NWT wildfire commitment ends on Tuesday

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces arrive in Hay River on August 20, 2023. Photo: Town of Hay River


The Canadian Armed Forces will end a special wildfire-related deployment to the Northwest Territories on Tuesday, a spokesperson has said.

At a Monday press conference, Maj Bonnie Wilken said: “Right now, as of tomorrow, the request for assistance … is over.”

Wilken said remaining members of the military working outside Yellowknife would conclude their operations on Tuesday before departing.

On average, she said, around 350 Canadian Armed Forces members have been deployed to the territory at any one time since the military arrived on Tuesday, August 15.



Some military members assisted with evacuation efforts while many served as Type III firefighters tasked with mop-up work on fires. No military members, however, are sufficiently highly trained to directly attack fires.

“In this situation, the territorial officials have ascertained – through the variety of experts that are all in on this effort – that the firefighting and airlift necessities that the CAF brought aren’t needed any more,” Wilken said.

“We’ve been doing some prudent breaking-down of forces and, as of tomorrow, that whole effort is done. At this point, territorial resources are sufficient for the needs that are requested and required in the area.”

Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the NWT’s wildfire agency, said the return of the military to their regular duties had been “anticipated.”

He said around 200 extra trained Type III firefighters able to take on mopping-up duties are available to step in as needed.

Fires like the one menacing Hay River, he said, are not yet at the stage where Type III firefighters are required and can safely work. Some of that work had begun earlier in August, but was paused – and the military left the town – when the fire freshly approached the community from the west a week ago.