Weekend rain not expected to ease wildfire situation

Last modified: July 9, 2022 at 12:20pm


The territory’s Department of Environment and Natural (ENR) resources is not expecting rain forecast over the weekend to ease the wildfire situation in the Northwest Territories.

A spokesperson said rainfall is expected to be spotty, and said the accompanying thunderstorms have their own problems as they often lead to lightning-caused fires.

“Do absolutely everything you can to prevent human-caused fires,” said Mike Westwick, wildlife information officer, noting since Thursday, 20 new wildfires have been reported.

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Most of these are not near communities and are being monitored.

Over the weekend, some rain is expected across the Dehcho, North Slave, and South Slave regions. However, in the Beaufort Delta and Sahtu, Westwick noted the forecast is calling for “scorching heat all through the Mackenzie Valley.”

While ENR’s wildfire update webpage shows the fire danger forecast receding in communities that receive rainfall, Westwick said these forecasts can change quickly as they are based on a formula that looks at things like how much moisture and fuel there is in an area, as well as the weather.

As of Friday afternoon at 5:45pm, there were 90 active wildfires in the NWT. To date, 165,306 hectares have burned, mostly in the North Slave region, where 38 fires have burned 126,867 hectares.

Across the territory, there are currently 29 “wildfires of note,” which are typically wildfires within 100km of a community.

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Smoke from wildfires is to be expected across the territory for the foreseeable future, ENR said, cautioning residents to take care of their health.

“Smoke forecasts suggest that some of the most severe smoke in the NWT will be seen over Great Bear Lake – specifically in the McVicar and Keith arms – and elevated levels will reach the community of Délı̨nę. Residents should expect smoke and ash in the community,” read Friday’s update, noting Délı̨nę is not at risk from a wildfire.

Dehcho wildfires

In the Dehcho, a lightning-caused fire approximately 40 km south of Wrigley is now 19,892 hectares. 

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Controlled burns are burning planned “to anchor the fire perimeter to natural fire barriers like bodies of water and old burns to create a fuel break to limit growth towards the community.”

Meanwhile, sprinkler installation is being planned to protect critical infrastructure, though there “is currently no reason for alarm in the community of Wrigley,” ENR wrote.

There is also another lightning-caused fire 12 km south of Wrigley, but it is less than one hectare in size. Fire crews are protecting Enbridge infrastructure near the fire and have “made good progress.” The fire is also not a threat to the community or any cabins.

South Slave and North Slave wildfires

Near Fort Providence, five fires have been grouped into the “Fort Providence Complex.” The set of fires includes both fires on the Meridian Island and fires by Highway 1.

While none of the fires pose an immediate threat to infrastructure, two of the five are considered out of control.

One of the out-of-control fires, lightning-caused fire SS034, is 24km past the Highway 3 junction toward Fort Simpson and is one kilometre north of the highway. It is currently 1.5 hectares and is being fought with air tankers dropping foam and retardant.

There is also a lightning-caused fire approximately 10 km southeast of Hay River that is out of control. The fire, which is currently one hectare, is being fought with air tankers and one fire crew.

In the North Slave, there are 10 “wildfires of note” – nearly all lightning-caused and none that are threatening communities, cabins, or infrastructure.

Sahtu and Beaufort Delta wildfires

There are currently two person-caused fires in the Sahtu: VQ012 and VQ013.

Fire VQ012 appears to have started as an abandoned campfire on a beach near Norman Wells, which spread to driftwood. Fire crews responded and the area is now being monitored to ensure the fire is completely out.

VQ013, also near Norman Wells, is suspected to have been caused by a burn pile that someone believed they had extinguished. A sprinkler has been set up to soak the fire “as it was holding a lot of heat.”

“This is a stark reminder that if you don’t go all the way and soak, stir, soak, and repeat until the air above where the fire was is cool, you haven’t put out the fire completely,” wrote ENR.

Meanwhile, a lightning-caused fire, approximately 28 km northwest of Tulita on the west side of the Mackenzie River, is now 350 hectares. Work is being done to protect a nearby cabin, which has not burned down as some people believed.

In the Beaufort Delta, there are no wildfires of note.

On Friday afternoon, NWT Parks announced a fire ban for all territorial parks in the Beaufort Delta Region.

Wood Buffalo National Park and Alberta wildfires

In Wood Buffalo National Park there are currently eight active fires. Most are far away from infrastructure, and only one – fire 22WB009 – approximately 10 km off of Highway 5, is being fought while the others are being observed. 

In northern Alberta, there are a number of fires close to the NWT-Alberta border – but not close to roads or communities – which are being held.