Behchokǫ̀ fire 'risk increasing' but no immediate threat

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The "close proximity" of a growing wildfire near Behchokǫ̀ means the risk to the community is increasing but there remains no immediate threat, the territorial government said on Wednesday.

The wildfire is now 163 hectares in size and remains 12 km north of the community, the territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources said in an update.

Six crews and three helicopters are working on the fire.

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Though conditions are considered extreme, the territory says the Russell Lake Channel, six kilometres south of the fire, should act as a "natural fire break." Nevertheless, residents are warned to expect smoky conditions from Wednesday to Friday.

"While there is no immediate threat to the community, the close proximity of the wildfire and extreme conditions increase the risk to the community and residents," the territory's Wednesday update read.

The NWT Power Corporation told residents to expect a power outage in Behchokǫ̀ on Thursday morning, between 8am and 10am, while technicians work to remove trees from power lines – in part to lower the risk of wildfires affecting power supply.

Of seven new NWT fires in the past day, two are less than 10 km from Wekweètì. Both were caused by lightning.

One, a 100-hectare fire seven kilometres northwest of the community, is currently being assessed to determine a plan of action, the territory said.

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The other, eight kilometres northeast of Wekweètì, is 20 hectares in size and already has tankers and fire crews working on it.

Meanwhile, the Awry Lake fire remains 41 km from Yellowknife and, at around 3,400 hectares, is much the same size it was on Tuesday. The fire is not an immediate threat to the city, though northeasterly winds may blow smoke onto Highway 3.

A map shows recent hotspots (in red) and overall extent (in yellow) of wildfires outside Behchoko and Yellowknife as of July 24, 2019

A map shows recent hotspots (in red) and overall extent (in yellow) of wildfires outside Behchoko and Yellowknife as of July 24, 2019.

Fire crews on the ground have secured control lines – manmade boundaries designed to control how the fire spreads – along the northeastern side of the Awry Lake fire, also known as fire ZF-024, and are now working on lines toward the southeastern perimeter.

Twenty firefighters heading to assist will arrive on Thursday, and the NWT has requested additional resources.

In northern Alberta, a wildfire three kilometres south of Fort Fitzgerald is now nearly 13 hectares in size. It has been downgraded from "out of control" to "being held" and there remains no immediate threat to Fort Fitzgerald.

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