Chief helps fight forest fire near Wekweeti, N.W.T.

Wekweeti Chief Johnny Arrowmaker and a few community members tackled a forest fire on their own last weekend when government fire crews had to leave to tackle a fire elsewhere. ‘I was standing at the end of the hose line for… a good 2 hours,’ Arrowmaker says. ‘We did pretty good.’

Johnny Arrowmaker spent two hours spraying water on a ground fire Sunday

Fire crews from the N.W.T.’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources did a controlled burn along the winter road near Wekweeti last week to create a fire break, but it wasn’t quite enough to hold the flames back.

On Sunday morning, Chief Johnny Arrowmaker and two other men went out across the lake to take a look.

“There was a fire there coming back, ready to cross the winter road,” he says. “We had to fight the fire before it crossed.”

Before leaving, fire crews had left a water pump and sprinklers and gave Arrowmaker a bit of information.

He says the controlled burn took place in a strong wind, and burned mostly the tree tops. This fire was travelling across extremely dry ground.

His impromptu crew worked most of of the day.

“I was standing at the end of the hose line for, I’ll say about a good two hours. I think I got asthma so I had a little bit of breathing problem, but somebody has to do something when a fire’s coming close to a community so that’s what we were just doing,” he says.

“We did pretty good.”

The Dene chief says fire crews came back to town on Monday and hired five local people to be on standby for the next two weeks.

By Wednesday afternoon the fire was burning less than 10 kilometres from Wekweeti.

Smoke from the fire across the lake has been looming for over a week.