North

Wildfire near Haines Junction, Yukon, grows to 137 hectares

The fire, burning out of control approximately nine kilometres from Haines Junction, is being driven by winds blowing out of the Alsek Valley.

Officials say fire does not currently threaten people or property

Flames are seen from a wildfire burning north of Haines Junction on Sunday. (Submitted by Colleen Maloney)

A wildfire burning near Haines Junction, Yukon, grew to 137 hectares Monday morning.

The fire, burning out of control approximately nine kilometres north of the village, is being driven by winds blowing north out of the Alsek Valley, said Mike Fancie, a spokesperson for Yukon Wildland Fire Management.

"So long as that wind holds in that direction, which we're confident that it will right now, the danger to the community is quite low," he said. "If the wind changes, that will be a different story."

Fancie said the fire does not threaten people or property. He said helicopters are dropping water on the edge of the fire nearest to Haines Junction while heavy equipment and 20 firefighters battle the blaze on the ground.

Roxanne Mason operates a lodge five kilometres from the fire.

"It's very scary to know how dry the forest is at the moment and see the speed of how fast the fire has grown overnight and knowing that we're so close to it," she said.

Crews are also battling a 967-hectare fire at Pigue Creek, approximately 12 kilometres west of the North Klondike Highway between Stewart Crossing and Dawson City.

Fancie said crews are monitoring that fire. He said it's burning away from the highway toward an area burned by a wildfire in 2017, so officials expect that to slow the fire's growth. Fancie said the highway itself is not at risk.

The fire is growing as personnel from the Canadian Forces and other government agencies begin Operation Nanook-Tatigiit. Crews are scheduled to practice responding to a major fire that forces the evacuation of neighbourhoods near Whitehorse.

Tammy Audet, a public affairs officer with Joint Task Force (North), said the Canadian Forces are not involved with fighting the fire near Haines Junction.

Fancie said crews in Whitehorse extinguished a small, human caused fire near Long lake Road on Sunday. It's the 26th fire in the Yukon so far this year and the 19th one caused by humans. He urged people to ensure campfires are completely extinguished, and to not start larger fires unless absolutely necessary.

The City of Whitehorse tweeted that its fire department responded to seven illegal fires over the weekend.

With files from Leonard Linklater, Claudiane Samson and Chris Windeyer

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