A wildfire south of Wrigley, seen in an image from the Sentinel-2 satellite, straddles Highway 1 on June 6, 2022.
Residents of Wrigley say ash has been falling since Sunday as a wildfire continues to burn to the south of the Dehcho community.
The fire, dubbed FS008 by the NWT government, is now entering its third week. According to residents, the weekend’s rain did not do much to slow its growth.
The Pehdzeh Ki First Nation said the fire had destroyed two cabins used for hunting and cultural activities in Jones Landing and near Yendi Lake.
Kyle Clillie, the First Nation’s band manager, said the NWT’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs had put the fire’s size at 21,827 hectares on Saturday.
Clillie believes the fire has since continued to grow based on the community’s own monitoring. Wrigley, he said, hasn’t experienced a fire like this one since 2014, when falling ash prompted the First Nation to evacuate Elders most affected by poor air quality to Hay River, Yellowknife and Fort Simpson.
Given the possible health impacts of ash and fire debris on drinking water, Clillie is concerned. So far, the NWT government has issued no warning regarding water quality in the community.
“They just told me over the phone that it was safe,” he said. “I would like to know if they performed any kind of test.”
Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said a warning about heavy smoke and ash in Wrigley had been in place for nearly two weeks.
Initially sparked by lightning, the fire has spread to both sides of Highway 1 south of Wrigley, prompting on-and-off road closures for weeks. The fire is burning on both sides of the Enbridge pipeline and near the pump station. Both Enbridge and ENR have installed sprinklers to protect the area, while a controlled burn has also taken place.
ENR stated a 20-person fire crew from Saskatchewan has joined 20 firefighters from the NWT to try to control the fire.
In its latest update, the department reiterated there is still no cause for alarm in the community.