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Yukon asks for more help as it deals with over 130 new wildfires in past week

Dozens of B.C. firefighters are in Yukon right now and more are on the way to help deal with wildfires that have been growing in number every day. Officials say 671 lightning strikes caused 136 new fires in the last week.

Dozens of B.C. firefighters already in territory, more on the way. Lightning is to blame for most of the fires

Vehicles make their way through wildfire smoke on Yukon's North Klondike Highway near Stewart Crossing on Wednesday. The highway is officially closed, but some motorists were guided through the area by a pilot car. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

Dozens of B.C. firefighters are in Yukon right now and more are on the way to help deal with wildfires that have been growing in number every day.

"We're bringing lots of people in to take care of this unprecedented situation," said Mike Fancie, information officer with Yukon Wildland Fire Management, on Thursday afternoon.   

"We've got a 100-person fire camp coming up from B.C. and the staff to support it, to help us find accommodation for all these people, that's going to be staged in a remote location. We have six more initial attack crews coming up. We have another 20-person unit crew coming up, and another order is being prepared today."

Fancie said that's on top of what's already arrived in Yukon from elsewhere, including dozens of firefighters and incident management support, 28 helicopters and two air tanker groups.

"We're prioritizing our resources as best we can right now to try and triage things based on the areas of greatest need."

As of early Thursday afternoon, there were 144 active wildfires across Yukon, including major fires in almost all regions of the territory. Several communities in the central territory are still under an evacuation alert issued a few days ago but none have been ordered to evacuate. 

There were 144 active wildfires across Yukon on Thursday. (Submitted by the Yukon government)

Several roads are still closed, including the North Klondike Highway near Stewart Crossing. The 6,000-hectare Crystal Lake fire crossed the highway and destroyed power lines and poles earlier this week. Fancie said on Thursday that 27 firefighters were working on that fire, along with heavy equipment.

Many of the territory's wildfires in recent days have been caused by lightning, combined with hot weather. Officials say 671 lightning strikes caused 136 new fires in the last week.

"It's weird to say that we 'only' had 12 new fires in the last day, but that's the least new fire activity that we've had since before the long weekend," Fancie said on Thursday.

It was slow-going for many drivers on the North Klondike Highway on Wednesday, with some waiting for hours and even overnight to get through the smokiest areas. Several communities in central Yukon are under an evacuation alert, but none have been ordered to evacuate. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

He said the weather is expected to shift in the coming days, but it's not yet clear whether that's a good thing.

"While it is trending towards more seasonal temperatures, there is also the potential with that front for stronger winds," Fancie said.

"You know, every time we blow on a campfire we see what happens with wind and fire."

Yukoners are encouraged to report any new wildfires by calling 1-888-798-FIRE. Information about wildfires can be found at 867-393-7415 or yukonfireinfo@yukon.ca.

Written by Paul Tukker with files from Leonard Linklater

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