North

It's lit: Whitehorse to host fire-focused Operation Nanook-Tatigiit

The exercise will include a scenario that simulates a major wildfire near the Whitehorse subdivisions of Cowley Creek and Mary Lake. The scenario will also include a mock evacuation, complete with a reception centre for evacuees and a mobile clinic set up at the Canada Games Centre.

Emergency crews to practice mock evacuation of Whitehorse neighbourhoods

Wildland firefighters practice during an exercise near Whitehorse earlier this spring. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

With a busy wildfire season forecast for Yukon, government emergency officials will gather in Whitehorse and Teslin for this year's edition of Operation Nanook-Tatigiit, which begins Monday.

The exercise will include a scenario that simulates a major wildfire near the Whitehorse subdivisions of Cowley Creek and Mary Lake. The scenario will also include a mock evacuation, complete with a reception centre for evacuees and a mobile clinic set up at the Canada Games Centre June 5.

Mike Dine, chief of the Whitehorse Fire Department, said one of the exercises will help firefighters look out for wood piles or trees too close to homes, which put them at greater risk from what are called interface fires: wildfires that come into contact with urban areas.

"We will be sending crews out to do what we call structural triage," Dine told reporters at a media briefing on Thursday. "They decide how and which properties they can defend, because they won't be able to defend everything." 

Dine also said approximately 100 firefighters will be working on a controlled burn June 4 near the Cadet camp off the Alaska Highway south of downtown Whitehorse. Residents may notice smoke in the area, he said.

Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis lashed out at critics who, he said, complain that the city is not ready for a major wildfire of the kind that is currently threatening High Level, Alta. 

"There's a lot of people would like you to believe that nothing has happened, we're not ready, we're not prepared. That's the farthest thing from the truth," Curtis said at Thursday's briefing.

"I don't think it's appropriate to say we're the tip of the torch and we're going to burn. We live in the middle of a forest." 

John Streicker, the Yukon's community services minister, said federal officials agreed to move Operation Nanook-Tatigiit from late summer to the spring to help Yukon fire crews practice for what figures to be a busy wildfire season. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Operation Nanook-Tatigiit typically takes place in August or September, but Community Services Minister John Streicker said the Yukon government asked to move it to late spring in order to give crews a chance to practice for the coming wildfire season.

"We asked them if they could move it forward for us [because] it would make it closer to real and engage more of our team," Streicker said.

The annual operation includes law enforcement and the Canadian Forces. Nearly 150 personnel will head north for this year's event. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.