Wildfires

Concern as NWT residents keep causing wildfires


The NWT’s wildfire authorities urged residents to stop being careless after the territory’s third wildfire of the season – all caused by people – was extinguished.

At the start of the summer, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had said it hoped to get through the whole season with no human-caused fires.

However, that ambition has been shattered by a succession of fires left to get out of control by people who failed to put them out.

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The first fire was reported in Hay River last week. The second was an unattended campfire near Tulita on Tuesday, and the third was an abandoned campfire near Fort Smith on Saturday morning.

With out-of-territory tourists unable to reach the NWT this summer amid ongoing pandemic travel restrictions, the blame falls squarely on residents.

The unattended fire near Tulita was close to a stand of trees on a trail near the Bear River and could easily have set the forest ablaze, the department said.

“Forests across the NWT are extremely dry,” the department warned on Saturday.

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“With warmer weather and wind expected over the next few days, it doesn’t take much for a campfire to become a wildfire. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure your fire is completely out before you leave it by checking to see if it is cool enough to touch.

“Do not let carelessness be the cause of a wildfire.”

Limiting the number of wildfires this summer is seen as crucial because the NWT has had to change tactics to account for Covid-19.

Fires this season will be attacked more aggressively than in the past, with the aim of minimizing their size and spread even if they’re not immediately threatening any people or property.

By doing so, the territory hopes to avoid having to deploy large numbers of firefighters alongside each other to fight larger fires – which would run the risk of providing a setting in which Covid-19 can spread.

The aggressive strategy means more resources will be thrown at each fire, so each fire this summer is likely to cost more money to fight than it would have done in another year.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, while our fire crews and communities are facing additional challenges, it is more important than ever for each one of us to do our part to prevent wildfires,” the department said in a Facebook post earlier in the week.

“Limiting the number of human-caused fires that NWT fire crews must respond to, and reducing exposure between crew members and the public, are critical to ensure the health and safety of all northerners.”

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