N.W.T. fire season forecast to start early, burn hot in May and June

It's projected to be a dry spring in the Northwest Territories, and that means this year's forest fire season could get going earlier than average, according to the Canadian Forest Service.

Fire activity expected to subside to 'relatively normal' levels later in summer

A map showing the North's forest fire forecast for May 2015. (Canadian Wildland Fire Information System)

It's projected to be a dry spring in the Northwest Territories, and that means this year's forest fire season could get going earlier than an average year, according to the Canadian Forest Service.

The early season follows on the heels of last year's record fire season in the territory, in which 385 fires burned 3.5 million hectares of forest and cost $55 million to fight.

The forecast is based on models that include things like winter snowfall and projected rain. 

"We're seeing that months of May and June will probably be above average in terms of fire danger, fire activity," said Kerry Anderson, a fire research officer with the Canadian Forest Service.

"But as the summer develops this will likely subside into a relatively normal fire season afterwards."

This is a reversal of what happened last year, he said. In 2014, the season had a slow start "and then in mid-June, early July, the fire activity just took off."

He said a "silver lining" from last year's record blazes is that the patchwork of burned areas left behind will likely help contain this year's fires in the N.W.T.

Average season expected in Yukon

Meteorologists with Yukon Wildland Fire Management say much of that territory is drier than normal, with the exception of the Old Crow area, but forecasters expect an average forest fire season.

Fire Information Officer George Maratos says crews are already training for summer fires.

"We always prepare for the worst season and hope for the best," he said. "That's always the mentality. You never know what the season's going to bring."

There were 32 forest fires in the Yukon last season.

Saturday is National Wildfire Preparedness Day, and Yukon Wildland Fire Management is launching a program to encourage homeowners to remove anything around their homes that might fuel a fire.

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