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Yukon firefighters begin training as 12 fires kick off wildfire season

Firefighters are training this week in Whitehorse as the wildfire season begins. As of today, Yukon Wildland Fire Management has already responded to 12 fires across the territory.

'It's a very physically demanding job,' says Yukon Wildland Fire Management official

Wildland firefighters are training in Whitehorse where conditions have been dry, though the weekend snowfall has helped. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Firefighters are training in Whitehorse this week as wildfire season begins. Yukon Wildland Fire Management has already responded to 12 fires across the territory this year. 

This includes three fires within Whitehorse city limits. Monday, wildfire officials were also monitoring two fires outside of Dawson City. That community has seen a total of five wildfires so far this season. 

Thirty-two firefighters started training in Whitehorse on April 29. They're joined by 16 crew leaders who are leading them through exercises and training.

Firefighters are also taking fitness tests to qualify to work on the fireline, said Mike Fancie, fire information officer with Yukon Wildland Fire Management. 

"When equipment gets wet, it weighs even more. It's a very physically demanding job, so physical fitness is a huge part of what's happening here," he said.

The 12-day session is taking place at the Boyle Barracks, the training centre for Whitehorse Cadets.

Firefighters taking part in the training come from communities across Yukon including Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Haines Junction, Old Crow, Watson Lake, Ross River, Dawson City Teslin, Carcross and Whitehorse.

Earlier this month, wildfire experts warned Yukoners to be extra careful in the bush as the unusually early spring and record-setting temperatures have increased the risk of wildfires in the area.

Fancie said recent snow has helped with dry conditions but is no guarantee against wildfires. 

Some campgrounds in Yukon open May 10, which brings a new measure of risk. According to the Yukon government, half of Yukon's human-caused fires are the result of campfires.

Physical fitness is important, as firefighters must run carrying heavy equipment. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

'Holdover' fires continue in northern B.C.

In northern B.C., fire crews continue their work outside Telegraph Creek. 

Remnants of the Alkali Lake wildfire have been smouldering since last year and creating holdover fires. 

Carolyn Bartos with the B.C. Wildfire Service, said nine people have been assigned to douse hot spots, which are heat sources measured from the air using heat-sensitive cameras. 

The hot spots are in zones accessible only by air and all-terrain vehicles. 

"It's difficult for the firefighters to access. They are having to dig down two to four feet just to get to where the heat is being stored," Bartos said.

Lower Post B.C, which lost buildings to wildfires last year. The community continues to rebuild and clean up. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Wildfire officials consider the holdover fires to be under control. They have not caused any injuries and have not damaged any property.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said there have been no signs of holdover fires in Lower Post, B.C, which also saw wildfires last year. 

Cleanup in that community continues. 

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