Fire kills thousands of salmon fry at Whitehorse fish hatchery

The fry were destined for restoration projects managed by the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

The fry were destined for restoration projects managed by two Yukon First Nations

The primary incubation building at the McIntyre Creek hatchery, after the weekend fire. The roof collapsed onto the building. (Dave Croft/CBC)

A weekend fire at a fish hatchery in Whitehorse has ruined this year's salmon restoration projects for two Yukon First Nations.

The primary incubation building at the McIntyre Creek hatchery was completely destroyed Saturday afternoon.

The building that was destroyed, seen in 2016. (Mardy Derby/CBC)

Whitehorse's acting fire chief, Chris Green, said the cause of the fire is not known, but police say it's not considered suspicious. Green said the small building was completely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

The building contained 16,000 chum salmon fry destined for the Fishing Branch River south of Old Crow, said Yukon College spokesperson Michael Vernon. Yukon College manages the hatchery.

There were also around 30,000 Chinook salmon fry meant to go in Fox Creek, north of Whitehorse.

Whitehorse's Mountain View Drive was closed on Saturday while firefighters put out the fire. (John Bunbury)

Vernon said it's a huge blow.

"Right now, there are no possibilities for anything this summer, we've essentially lost a year in those two restoration projects," he said.

This was to be first year for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation's Fishing Branch River project.

The Fox Creek project, run by the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council, is almost 10 years old.

The hatchery seen from Mountain View Drive. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Vernon said the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council has another 1,200 fry at a different location that will go into Fox Creek this spring, but the fire means the return of spawning salmon to the creek four years from now will be greatly reduced.

He said the college, the First Nations, and the federal fisheries department will eventually determine whether to rebuild the hatchery.

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