N.W.T. Highway 3 reopens to traffic
Northwest Territories Highway 3 is open again between Behchoko and Fort Providence, N.W.T., but transportation officials warn that a nearby forest fire could close the road again with little or no notice.
The 213-kilometre section of highway, which was closed to traffic on Monday afternoon, reopened around 12 p.m. MT on Wednesday, according to the N.W.T. Transportation Department.
"We're confident that there's going to be no issue with either the fire or smoke threatening the visibility or safety on the highway," department spokesman Earl Blacklock told CBC News.
"However, the road could close with very short notice at any time, depending on what happens with the fire."
Motorists are advised to check the Transportation Department's website or call 1-800-661-0750 to get the latest road conditions.
The 5,500-hectare forest fire has been burning for the past week near Birch Lake, about 70 kilometres from Behchoko.
Fire being monitored
Patches of scorched earth can be found on both sides of the highway between Kilometres 156 and 158 on Wednesday, suggesting that the fire jumped across the road earlier this week.
Crews are not fighting the wildfire at this time, but the N.W.T. Environment and Natural Resources Department says it is monitoring the situation.
"We can't fight every fire that we find," said Roger Fraser, the department's forest manager in the North Slave region.
Fraser said firefighters will be dispatched only when a forest fire is threatening people or property, which is not the case with the Birch Lake fire.
"When the fire did start, we were in a very extreme weather pattern and we had to make sure that our communities were protected," he said.
"To pull crews away from the communities to go fight a fire way out where there's not much value, then we're leaving the community unprotected."
Fraser added that wildfires are part of the natural cycle to renew and rejuvenate the territory's forests.