North

Controlled burn destroyed $100K of cut wood, N.W.T. man says

Kerry Smith says that N.W.T. fire officials were doing a back burn near his wood lot earlier this month, but nobody warned him - or his employee, who was on site - until the next day, after the fire jumped the road.

Kerry Smith says fire officials didn't warn him about a back burn until it jumped the road

Kerry Smith says fire officials didn't warn him about a backburn until it jumped the road, and threatened one of his employees who was in camp near Boundary Creek. (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)

A woodcutter who works near Boundary Creek just off N.W.T.'s Highway 3 says he lost a year's worth of work when a controlled burn went out of control.

Kerry Smith says fire officials with Environment and Natural Resources were doing a back burn near his woodlot earlier this month to prevent a wildfire from spreading, but nobody warned him — or his employee, who lives on site — until the next day, after the fire jumped the road.

"I guess he went and had a nap in the afternoon," Smith says. "The fire come in and two dogs came and woke him up. When he looked outside he saw the fire coming up right overtop the camper here. He jumped on the quad and… he went out the back way to the highway and went down to the neighbours.

"Scared him pretty bad, alright."

Smith says he's not blaming the firefighters because the winds changed direction.

"Those guys all work hard to save everybody's stuff; sometimes it don't work out."

What was once a wood lot dotted with piles of cut wood and felled trees is now a charred landscape.

"Everything was black. You didn't know what to expect. And you realize later that a whole year's work is gone in one day."   

'The first fire, I lost about two-thirds of my lease, and I think this fire took two-thirds of what I had left,' Smith says. 'But I still got some wood in the back behind the camp that I can go and get.' (Curtis Mandeville/CBC)

A little help would 'be nice'

Smith estimates he lost between 200 and 300 cords of wood, or close to $100,000 in revenue, in the fire that he says happened a few weeks ago. ("I don't even know the date," Smith says. "Haven't worn a watch since I come outta the mine.")

ENR officials say they're looking into the matter, but there may not be any type of compensation available for the business. 

Smith says he wouldn't mind some compensation, but he's ready to move on regardless.

"It'd be nice to get a bit of help, but like I said, I can't blame them. I don't blame them."

Smith says he's been dealing with fires for the past four years.

"The first fire, I lost about two-thirds of my lease, and I think this fire took two-thirds of what I had left," he says. "But I still got some wood in the back behind the camp that I can go and get.

"Firewood is a lot of work. Other than that, there's pretty much nothing else to say."

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