North

Wildfire near Wrigley nearly doubles in size overnight, showing 'severe fire behaviour'

Smoke from a wildfire near Wrigley, N.W.T., has been affecting members and not allowing aircrafts to arrive or depart.

Wrigley's chief said the community has set up a camp in case they need to leave

Smoke from a wildfire in Wrigley in 2021. Again in 2022, a fire near the community has closed the nearby highway and ferry. (Hannah Paulson/CBC)

A fire about 40 kilometres south of Wrigley, N.W.T., has grown significantly in the past 24 hours.

Since Friday morning, the fire has grown from 11,892 hectares to 19,892 hectares. 

N.W.T. Fire wrote on its latest fire update there is no reason for alarm in the community, having previously credited Wrigley with being prepared. 

Lloyd Moses, Pehdzeh Ki First Nation chief, said a camp with cabins and tents is up about seven to 10 kilometres from the community on the other side of the Mackenzie River, in case an evacuation is required. 

"The First Nation, we got a little plan put together," he said. "We got it under control." 

Moses said there is hope the wind is changing directions, which would give the Dehcho community some reprieve — particularly as smoke from the nearby wildfires have been an issue.

"One of the members phoned this morning with breathing issues," Moses said. 

That member, who has other health issues, has been unable to leave, Moses said, as the smoke has prevented aircrafts from arriving or leaving. The fire is burning on both sides of Highway 1, which led to its closure. The ferry crossing along the highway has also been closed as a result of the wildfire.

Moses said some community members who went on a grocery run have been stranded in Fort Simpson.

Mike Westwick, N.W.T. wildfire information officer, told CBC's the Weekender host Marc Winkler that those with cardiovascular issues should take precautions around wildfire smoke. 

"We're seeing some pretty severe fire behaviour over there," Westwick said of the fire, which has now moved past River Between Two Mountains.

He said N.W.T. Fire is focused on protecting cabins and homes in the area, as well as infrastructure such as the Enbridge Pipeline. Some of the ways crews have been doing this is with controlled burns. 

"That involves creating a line of defence between the highway and the Mackenzie River," Westwick said. 

The territory is currently dealing with 90 active fires, and 20 additional fires since the last update Friday morning. 

Westwick said although it's a significant increase, the majority aren't in areas that threaten any communities or infrastructure.

There are several wildfires in the vicinity of Fort Providence, but N.W.T. Fire said on Facebook none pose a risk to the community. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke Carroll

Reporter

Luke Carroll is a journalist with CBC News in Yellowknife who has previously worked in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Luke is originally from Brockville, Ont., and moved to Yellowknife in May 2020. He can be reached at luke.carroll@cbc.ca.

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