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Watch: How the NWT’s 2023 wildfires spread, day by day

Smoke plumes over Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation on September 12, 2023. Photo: GNWT


Videos newly published to YouTube use satellite hotspot data to show how the NWT’s largest-ever wildfire season developed day by day.

First publicized to link-sharing platform Reddit on Thursday, the videos – by an account simply named “NWT Wildfires 2023 – The Movies” – take information from Nasa fire-tracking website Firms and turn that data into video timelapses.

A timelapse of Firms hotspot data shows the evolution of fires in the North Slave, South Slave and Dehcho over the summer of 2023.

As red hotspots illuminate different parts of each map, you can follow how the territory’s wildfires spread, including bursts of rapid development on hot, dry and windy days, and calmer periods when wetter conditions set in.

All of this information was available at the time, but the season-long timelapses provide a grander-scale overview of how the situation changed by the day.



Individual videos are available for Yellowknife, Dettah, Behchokǫ̀, Hay River, Fort Smith and the Ingraham Trail.

The videos include a record of when communities shown on the map evacuated, when fire bans were declared and when a territorial state of emergency was in effect. (Cabin Radio hasn’t independently checked all of the details shown in every video, but a sample of the data shown in the videos matched information and maps we published earlier in the year.)

A timelapse video of Firms data focused on Fort Smith and northern Alberta.

The soundtrack accompanying the videos shifts pointedly from a gentle guitar lullaby to more of a musical tempest each time a community is shown to be evacuating.

Some videos span the whole summer from May to October. Others show specific windows of time, such as the August peak of the season when more than half a dozen NWT communities were at one point simultaneously under evacuation orders.

Multiple reviews of the season and its evacuations are either under way or being planned, both at territorial and community level. How the territory can improve its wildfire protection and response in future seasons is a key issue in the NWT election that culminates on Tuesday, November 14 as voters go to the polls.