City of Yellowknife reinstates fire ban, other parts of N.W.T. at high-to-extreme fire risk

City of Yellowknife's fire chief, Nelson Johnson, said in the release it is due to 'very dry conditions,' and no rain in the forecast. There is also an expected increase in lightning later this week.

The ban is due to 'very dry conditions,' no rain in the forcast, and possible lightning later this week

No bonfires in city limits, says Yellowknife's fire chief. The ban is effective immediately. (Andrew Pacey/CBC)

A city-wide mandatory fire ban has been reinstated in Yellowknife, effective immediately.

In a news release Monday, the city says all open-air burning is banned, including the use of approved fire pits within the city.

The City of Yellowknife's fire chief, Nelson Johnson, said in the release the ban was put in place due to "very dry conditions," and no rain in the forecast.

An increase in lightening is also expected later this week, Johnson said.

Fines will be issued for non-compliance, the release said.

The ban will remain in effect until further notice. People can keep an eye out for a change in status through the City of Yellowknife website and social media sites, the release said.

Extreme danger across the territory

There were 53 active wildfires in the N.W.T., according to the government of the Northwest Territories' website on Monday, with 71,394 hectares of land affected to date this year. 

Most areas in the territory, including the North Slave region, are rated as extreme when it comes to fire danger.

"It means that if you have a fire escape from from a controlled area, like say a fire pit or a barbecue, if you've got sparks and embers escaping and igniting forest ... the chances are very high that once a fire starts ... it will grow very, very fast," Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the N.W.T.'s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), told CBC News on Sunday.

"The result of that can be ... threats to cabins, threats to infrastructure and other stuff folks value. So what we're urging people is to take the responsibility that they have, during this period of time, to prevent wildfires, extremely seriously, because the consequences can be quite significant."

Westwick said over the weekend that there were two new wildfires.

One, in the South Slave region, is about four hectares and about 90 kilometres southeast of Fort Resolution. It's being monitored by the fire teams. Westwick said it's not threatening communities, cabins, infrastructure or other properties.

The other fire, in the Sahtu region, is about five hectares and about 20 kilometres northwest of Tulita on the west side of the Mackenzie river.

Both fires were caused by lightning, Westwick said.

A map of the Northwest Territories with indications on where wildfires are located in the territory.
A map shows the wildfires burning in the Northwest Territories (in orange) as of Monday afternoon, and the fires that have been put out (in black). (N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources)

The fire near Wekweètì, N.W.T., has grown to about 5,969 hectares and is about 17 kilometres northwest of the community.

Westwick said crews did controlled burning in the area, which was believed to have been successful.

"We're making really good progress on bringing that fire under control. Significant smoke is still to be expected in that area over the coming days," Westwick said.

"It's a fairly large fire. But our crews have been ... doing a good job bringing that under control."

A fire in the Dehcho region, which caused a stir online last week is "still holding steady" at about 5,631 hectares since the last update, Westwick said.

"The incident management team is working really hard to continue to protect cabins and homes nearby, including a homestead at Willowlake River," he said, adding crews are working hard to bring that under control.

He said that fire is still not putting any communities at risk, though smoke will still be "significant in that area for the foreseeable future."

The Department of Infrastructure also has the Mackenzie River and Ndulee River Crossings, and Highway One, are open for now, with some advisories.

Westwick said the next seven to 10 days may be a challenge for the territory in terms of avoiding more wildfires.

"It's going to be a really significant test for the Northwest Territories. And you know, we'd really encourage everybody to rise to that challenge over the next little bit," he said.

"We've got to be in this together to make sure that we aren't contributing to some really challenging situations, both to firefighters, from all of our communities and to each other."


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a fire burning 90 kilometres southeast of Fort Resolution was in the Sahtu region. In fact, it is in the South Slave region.
    Jul 05, 2022 8:14 AM CT