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North Slave fires create smoky air as season remains below average

A sign warns of extreme fire danger warning at Reid Lake Territorial Park in June 2021. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio


Wildfires in the North Slave region led to some smoky air in Yellowknife on Monday and Tuesday. 

The wildfires to blame, ZF-034 and ZF-038, joined together on Monday, creating one large 3,800-hectare fire according to NWT wildfire information officer Amber Simpson.

As of Tuesday, 42 wildfires had been reported in the North Slave this year, affecting more than 35,000 hectares.



In the South Slave, the Town of Fort Smith on Tuesday banned all fires except approved backyard fire pits.

Nine wildfires have been reported in the South Slave so far this year, affecting 5,700 hectares.

The Dehcho, which saw several large wildfires last month, has reported 28 wildfires so far this year, affecting 36,800 hectares.

As of Tuesday, the NWT had recorded 131 wildfires covering 114,100 hectares in 2021. The 10-year average for this time of year is 175 fires and 435,900 hectares. 



Richard Olsen, manager of fire operations in the NWT, said this year looks like “maybe a slightly below-average fire season.”

That could yet change as existing fires have the potential to grow in the weeks ahead, Olsen said, “but if conditions move as they’re kind-of indicating, we should be getting back into what we would typically expect for numbers of fires and area burned in the future years.”

The last significant wildfire season in the NWT was 2015. Subsequent seasons have been notably milder

Looking at historical data might not be the best predictor of future events in the face of a changing climate, according to Olsen.  

“What we might see, also, is more extremes,” he said.

“There are some portions of the NWT, like the Inuvik region, that are actually a lot drier than normal, even starting at the beginning of this season.”

Elsewhere in the country, unprecedented wildfire seasons have hit several provinces. Across Canada, 5,361 wildfires have been reported so far this year, a significant jump from 2,737 in 2020.

In BC there were 259 active wildfires as of Tuesday, with 29 reported in the past 48 hours. In Ontario, more than 3,000 people from five First Nations have been evacuated due to wildfires with more than 1,000 fires across the province to date. 

In Manitoba, 154 fires were active as of Monday. Four First Nations and three other northern Manitoba communities remain evacuated according to the province’s latest fire update report.