New wildfires were reported near the North Slave’s Snare hydro plants as the rapid growth of a separate fire closer to Yellowknife eased off.
Fire ZF-024, which had reached 2,400 hectares in size by Sunday, showed “no significant fire growth” in the past 24 hours according to officials on Monday afternoon.
The fire’s smoke plume has been visible from Yellowknife. Its extreme behaviour means 26 firefighters assigned to ZF-024 have not yet been able to take any action on the ground.
Amber Simpson, representing the NWT’s forest management team, said it was a “hot, fast-moving fire that we wouldn’t want to put our firefighters in front of.” The fire has been fought to date from the air instead.
The fire remains no closer to Yellowknife than it was previously – some 40 km away – and is no threat to any community. Crews are burning off trees to the east of the fire to help limit any further growth.
Meanwhile, lightning caused two new, much smaller fires to begin nearer to the Snare hydro system’s power plants, north of Behchokǫ̀.
One fire, given the designation ZF-032, appeared on satellite imagery to be within three kilometres of the Snare Falls and Snare Cascades plants. The fire was reported to be just four hectares in size as of Monday.
“We are in contact with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) about the fire currently existing between our Snare plant sites,” Matthew Lakusta, a power corporation spokesperson, told Cabin Radio.
“The last update we have … is that the new fire is currently two to three kilometres away from our Snare plants.
“We are working with ENR closely so that we can respond effectively if the potential risk of interference increases.”
Last week, the NWT Power Corporation said any disruption to the Snare system – transmission lines between the Snare hydro plant and Yellowknife are near fire ZF-024 – would not result in a significant power outage, but more of a “blip” as the city switches instead to either power from the Bluefish hydro system or diesel.
The 2019 wildfire season has already burned a larger area of the territory than last year’s season.
In 2018 – which was one of the quietest seasons on record in the past half-century – just under 12,000 hectares of land burned.
So far this year, Simpson said, 15,333 hectares have burned. (The extremely bad 2014 season, by contrast, burned nearly three million hectares of the territory.)
This year’s figure includes more than 5,000 hectares burned to date in each of the North Slave and South Slave. In the South Slave, no new fires were reported in the past 24 hours.
Among the North Slave’s remaining fires, a fire east of Yellowknife near Watta Lake continues to burn and has reached 180 hectares in size.
Call for backup
The territorial government warned of heavy smoke on Monday in both the North Slave and South Slave.
In an update posted to Facebook, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said smoke in the South Slave was coming from northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, while North Slave smoke was from nearby fires.
“None of these fires are a threat to NWT communities,” the department reiterated.
As the territory’s fire season ramps up, Simpson told reporters the NWT will now call on help from other provinces and territories to tackle the increasing number of fires.
“We are looking to get some from other jurisdictions to help out – within the next few days, we’re hoping,” she said.
The territory has just brought back a crew of 20 firefighters from Ontario.
Simpson said additional support from elsewhere would help to give NWT firefighters a break from the front line.