A wildfire between Wrigley and Fort Simpson has closed the highway linking the two communities, the NWT government said on Tuesday.
Fire FS008, caused by lightning, had earlier been declared under control but by Tuesday afternoon was said to have grown from 40 to some 880 hectares in size.
By 4:30pm, the territory’s Department of Infrastructure said the fire, southeast of Wrigley, had led to a highway closure “between km 553 and km 690.” Officials warned smoke in the area could also affect driving conditions on open sections of highway.
At the Dehcho Annual Assembly, being hosted by the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation this week in Fort Simpson, some delegates said they had been told the fire had jumped the highway. The territorial government said it could not immediately confirm that detail. Data published by US authorities suggested the fire had, at the very least, reached the immediate vicinity of the highway.
“It’s still 30 km from town,” said Loyal Moses, an assembly delegate for the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation.
“The last time it crossed the road, in 2007, it came over the riverbank and ashes were falling into town.”
George Moses, another of the First Nation’s delegates, said: “We’ve got to get home tomorrow, so we’re worried. Just looking at the fire before we left, I could tell it was going to go over the road.
“I’m retired now, but I’ve been a firefighter for 25 years. The conditions have been terrible this year.”
The fire is one of 46 currently active in the territory, though few pose any imminent threat to communities or infrastructure.
A lightning-caused fire seven km north of Fort Smith is being fought as it is burning in the vicinity of the transmission line stretching to the Taltson hydro dam.
Meanwhile, a new fire has begun south of Highway 4 in the region of Hidden Lake and Cameron Falls. That fire was attacked from the air on Monday.
The Beaufort Delta has also reported only its second wildfire of the season to date. Fire EV002 is between Paulatuk and Colville Lake, far from any community, and is being monitored.
Caitrin Pilkington contributed reporting.