NWT wildfire crews near full strength as lightning rolls in

More wildfires started by lightning are expected in the near future, a leading territorial fire official warned on Monday.

Richard Olsen, the NWT’s manager of fire operations, said there had been increased lightning activity in the Dehcho and South Slave, and more is expected as the week goes on.

“We’re right on the cusp of when lightning is going to increase the number of lightning starts,” said Olsen. “I think we’ll likely be seeing more starts as we move into the weekend.”


So far, there have been 12 small wildfires reported in the NWT this year. All are believed to have been caused by people.

Olsen said reports were reaching him on Monday afternoon of a new fire near Highway 1 just off the Alberta-NWT border, which is suspected to have been caused by a lightning strike.

Lightning strikes Yellowknife on the evening of July 5, 2018 - taken by Mike Harling

Mike Harling took this photo of lightning striking Yellowknife in July 2018.

Of the 12 previously reported fires, five were in the South Slave, four in the Dehcho, and three in the North Slave, all burning a minimal area according to data published by the NWT government.

Meanwhile, the territory’s wildfire crews are essentially operating at full strength as training ends.


Olsen said 128 firefighters, in 32 crews, are now available and two more crews, based in Tsiigehtchic and Wekweètì, will soon add another eight people.

All five helicopters will be on-strength by the end of the week, as will all air tankers.

Olsen said the territory will then assess its needs versus its resources before deciding whether crews can be spared to help adjacent provinces and territories already battling significant fires, like Yukon and Alberta.

“If we have people we can free up, we will certainly try to help out our neighbours,” he told reporters.


Sara Wicks contributed reporting.