While the Northwest Territories’ wildfire season has yet to officially begin, residents are already being affected.
The highway connecting Alberta and the NWT was closed on Saturday, May 12, as a forest fire jumped the road – forcing a state of emergency for the Alberta community of High Level.
NWT residents shared offers of accommodation and assistance online during the closure, which cut off one of the territory’s only two roads south (or back north).
Alberta’s Highway 35, which becomes NWT Highway 1 at the border, reopened on Sunday. Alberta’s wildfire crews say the wildfire, about 25 km north of High Level, is “being held at 602 hectares” during a period of what is already extreme fire risk.
“The increased danger is due to large areas of dead, dry grass and gusty winds. These areas will ignite easily and spread quickly, creating erratic, hard to control wildfire; please use extreme caution,” warned Alberta’s government.
High Level is around 180 km south of the territory’s border and a frequent stop on the route down to Edmonton for NWT residents.
Imaging from NASA’s MODIS satellite program suggests there have yet to be any wildfires north of the Alberta border in the 2018 season.