Fire 27km NW of Yellowknife unlikely to reach city
‘27 kilometres is a fairly safe distance from a forest fire,’ fire research scientist says
A fire burning just 27 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife is unlikely to reach the city, even though this morning’s forecast says winds from that direction could reach 30 kilometres an hour.
The fire, called "fire 85" by territorial officials, was deemed a priority firefighting location earlier this month. Smoke from the fire was the cause of the voluntary evacuation order issued for people living along the highway just out of town, which has since been lifted.
Kerry Anderson, a fire research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, says it would take days of extreme weather to push the fire into the city.
“Twenty-seven kilometres is a fairly safe distance from a forest fire,” Anderson says. “It’s not unheard of to cover those sorts of distances in a day, although those would be under extreme conditions and those rarely happen.”
Yellowknife is experiencing a second day of light rain showers — a slight relief in the territory's driest summer in 40 years.
But those extreme conditions did occur in Fort McMurray in 2011, when the Richardson fire burned through 50 kilometres of forest in one day. The second largest recorded fire in Alberta's history prompted several evacuations and shutdowns in the oilsands
Wind isn't the only thing that determines the speed at which fires travel: temperature, humidity as well as where a fire is burning are all factors, Anderson says.
Once a fire moves to the crown of a forest it can accelerate because there's more wind.
"A surface fire will creep along at centimetres per minute as opposed to a crown fire that moves metres or tens of metres per minute,” Anderson says.
And whether the fire reaches the crown depends on how dry and hot the weather is.
Anderson says fire management agencies are monitoring fires closely so there are no surprises.