Yukon fire danger remains high as Alberta crews called in to help territory's firefighters

Lower temperatures and rain in the weather forecast may ease pressure on fire crews, says Yukon's director of wildland fire management.

Lower temperatures and rain in weather forecast may ease pressure on fire crews

An evacuation alert remains in place along the Robert Campbell Highway, north of Watson Lake. But Etches says the fire is moving away from the community. (Submitted by Charun Stone)

Firefighters from Alberta have been called in to help Yukon firefighters while the fire danger rating remains high or extreme in much of the central and southern regions of the territory.

There are around 17 active fires in Yukon, said Mike Etches, Yukon's director of wildland fire management.

He said 15 firefighters from Alberta have joined roughly 70 Yukoners in fighting fires around the territory. He said the Albertans are backfilling for local firefighters who need a break.

An air tanker from Alberta is also helping with fires in the Watson Lake area.

Two new small fires visible from the Alaska Highway near Iron Creek, east of Watson Lake, are being dealt with. They were caused by lightning strikes over the weekend.

Etches said temperatures above 20 C are expected to drop as the week progresses, and rain may fall in some areas.

A fire in the Teslin River valley made some people nervous in the Lake Laberge area over the weekend. Fire officials say it should not pose any danger to Whitehorse. (Jeremy Jones)

"We're basically staying very alert to new starts and making sure that we don't have any concerns and hope we get past this warm spell without any larger fires closer to our communities,"  Etches said.

An evacuation alert remains in place for an area north of Watson Lake, but Etches said the fire is moving north and away from the community.

He said a forestry operation in the Haines Junction area was asked to cease operations in the bush because of the fire risk.

Etches said the cool spring and early summer means the chances of sparking a fire have been lower.

"We don't have a lot of dry grass," he said. "It's still pretty green out there." 

Mike Etches, Yukon's director of wildland fire management, says cooler, wetter weather that's in the forecast later in the week may dampen forest fires. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Yukoners are generally careful about not starting forest fires, said Etches. There was a brief scare in Watson Lake on Saturday when cigarette butts started a fire at Wye Lake, but it was quickly put out.

A large smoke plume from a fire in the Teslin River valley, east of Lake Laberge, is visible to people in the Whitehorse area. Etches said it does not pose any danger to the city.

People paddling the river are being told to stick to the middle of the river and not camp in the area.

There are multiple fires burning west of Dawson City that may have an effect on mining operations. A news release from Wildland Fire Management states that steps have been taken to protect buildings in the area.

With files from Meagan Deuling