Since residents returned to Yellowknife, some have raised questions about the fire breaks created while the city was under an evacuation order.
For example: Why does the fire break in Niven look different? What happened with the trees that were cut down?
According to the city, all fire breaks created in the past few weeks were built based on guidance from wildfire experts and are approximately 100 metres wide.
City Hall says ground conditions in some places required extra work, such as the addition of gravel to a fire break around the edge of some Niven Lake housing, so equipment could safely travel during construction. In Parker Park, the fire break required further clearing for safety, the city said.
The city said all of the wood and brush cleared during construction of the fire breaks has been assigned to various projects in Yellowknife, including Con Mine’s remediation and landfill closure work. Since that material wasn’t harvested in a commercial manner, the city said, its uses are limited.
Residents are asked to stay away from the fire breaks, where contractors continue to clear stumps and process wood.
The city does not yet have an estimate for how much all of the work will cost, but said it will make the figure public once it is available.
Early last month, Yellowknife’s mayor and council unanimously approved an emergency request to spend funding on wildfire mitigation and risk reduction. That included fire breaks, firesmarting and installing sprinklers.
The city is set to receive nearly $2.4 million in federal funding over seven years to increase protection against wildfires. That money comes from a disaster mitigation fund that will provide a total of $20 million over that period to 29 communities across the territory.
While those funds weren’t set to begin flowing until 2024, the cash will now become available in 2023. City manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said around $600,000 is expected this year.
However, the work carried out over the past month or so is expected to cost significantly more than that.
“We’ve got to sort out through the disaster assistance funding,” Mayor Rebecca Alty said earlier this month when asked who would pay for the fire breaks and other work carried out to defend the city.
“We’ve got to still work on the final total for that. It’s a big exercise to come.
“But we do have some folks who’ve had experience getting funding from the federal government through the disaster assistance funding. They’re coaching us through the process to be successful.”
Beyond the cost of building the defences, the city must also wrestle with how to now keep the fire breaks effective over time.
“Our defence systems are really strong and we’ve got to maintain them,” said Alty.
“Like, I know folks will be probably using them as recreation, but we need to make sure that they’re clear, going forward.”