North

N.W.T. fires in a 'bit of a downturn,' officials say

Fire officials say rain in the southern part of the Northwest Territories has helped slow down the spread of forest fires.

Recent rain in southern N.W.T gives firefighters some reprieve

Smoke from a forest fire is visible Monday May 25 from N.W.T. Highway 3 outside Behchoko. (submitted by Elora Braden)

Rain in the southern part of the Northwest Territories has helped slow down fire activity, say officials.

There have been few new fires started in the last week leaving firefighters open to tackle some problematic existing fires.

"The NWT as a whole is receiving a bit of a downturn in this point in time which is assisting in all fire efforts," said Richard Olsen, the territory's manager of fire operations.

Fifty-five fires in the N.W.T. this year have so far burned more than 100,000 hectares of land. Olsen says the average number of fires for this time of year is about a third of that.

"We're still really not even beginning into our fire season," he said.

"I guess we're pretty much just on the edge of when we would normally expect some of our normal fire flaps and fire starts, so this should give us a good break before that happens."

He says fire crews are currently fighting 12 fires.

"[The] majority of those are being monitored for value protection," Olsen said.

"So we're monitoring the fire growth, we have sprinklers in place to protect values should the fire move in a certain direction."

Crews continue to monitor a large fire near Highway 3 south of Behchoko, which is currently about 20,000 hectares in size. Late last month, crews did a controlled burn to create a five kilometre fire break between the highway and the fire.

Another fire that was burning on the Alberta side of Wood Buffalo National Park jumped the territorial boundary this weekend and caused the closure of Highway 5.

That fire is still burning about 30 kilometres west of Fort Smith along the highway. Transportation officials warn the highway may close again with little or no notice.

2015 N.W.T. fire numbers so far:

  • 55 fires since May 1
  • 27 received some sort of firefighting action
  • 7 were caused by humans
  • 40 were caused by lightning
  • 8 fires carried over from last year, burning through the winter

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