N.W.T. fires cost $1M a day, and there’s no end in sight
'We’ll spend the money because the No. 1 job ... is to protect the values at risk'
Battling one of the worst forest fire seasons the Northwest Territories has seen in decades has not been cheap.
“At one point we were going through a million dollars a day,” says Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger.
The costs accumulated as firefighters tackled multiple fires around the community of Kakisa, the Taltson hydroelectric dam, the Reid Lake territorial park and campground, and along the highways that connect Yellowknife to the rest of Canada.
Miltenberger says this year's firefighting budget has already been spent, and he has had to go back to the Finance Department to get permission to borrow more money.
“We're going to have to borrow the money, but we're not going to stint on protecting values at risk and the people and property in the Northwest Territories.”
Miltenberger says he's well aware of the territory’s borrowing limit.
The government has a $100-million cushion for this type of emergency.
“We’ve been really pressed this year, but the issue of money: We’ll spend the money because the No. 1 job, of course, our commitment, is to protect the values at risk and make sure we work with the communities to do that.”
Fires rage throughout the N.W.T.
On Thursday, fire officials warned people at Plummer’s Lodge on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake it may be time to leave, as winds pushed a 72,000-hectare fire close to the fishing lodge.
Judy McLinton, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, says there’s no relief in sight.
“It’s going to start heating up again and heat up during the weekend. And it’s going to be hot again even all the way to Inuvik and the Sahtu.”
McLinton said one crew was working the fire near the lodge.
She says no other crews will be sent, because they are working on other priority fires, such as the one near Reid Lake.
Forest fires have now burnt more than 800,000 hectares of land.