Northwest Territories and BC in the grip of heat and wildfires

TORONTO – Out-of-control fires and torrid heat: the situation in the Northwest Territories is still absolutely emergency. Today, Environment Canada issued additional advisories for several communities where wildfires are burning within few miles of homes.

An ongoing fire near the Hay River is burning 1.5 kilometers from the Hay River city center. The Yellowknife fire, still 15 kilometers from the city, is out of control. Plus, scorching heat rages in Hay River itself, Fort Providence, Jean Marie River, and Fort Smith. Temperatures yesterday reached 29° to 35° in parts of the South Slave Region, while temperatures hovered around 30° in communities surrounding Wood Buffalo National Park.

“The risks are greatest for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, and people who work or exercise outdoors,” Environment Canada wrote today.

Crews in these areas are battling runaway fires that have kept people from their homes for over a week. In recent days, conditions have worsened due to the strong heat and winds: in a few days, for example, the fire that threatened the city of Hay River has moved from eight kilometers to 1.5 kilometers from the city center. And “significant damage” was observed along the blaze’s path to the community in the Patterson Road and Paradise Gardens areas, located south of the Hay River.

Great mobilization to face the fires: 376 men, 86 heavy vehicles, 24 helicopters and 150 firefighters were working at Fort Smith on Sunday: a dramatic increase in efforts compared to last week, when there were 325 men and 57 vehicles on the ground. And reinforcements are also arriving in British Columbia: 40 soldiers of the 41st Canadian Brigade Group stationed in Calgary were deployed today in southern British Columbia, where more communities in the Shuswap region are threatened by fires.

Thousands of displaced people remain outside their homes in the Shuswap area as the Bush Creek East fire continues to burn out of control.

Soldiers will first be deployed to Vernon and then to communities across the province as needed. The Calgary crew will join other reservists throughout Western Canada as part of a domestic response company of approximately 100 Soldiers.

Colonel Christopher Hunt told Global News that soldiers are being considered to deploy until Sept. 15. “We have seen that this is the worst fire season on record in British Columbia. We will do everything possible – added the commander of the 41st Group – to free up provincial resources so that professional firefighters can concentrate on the most dangerous areas and take control of them. Whatever the province needs in terms of ‘manpower’, the soldiers are there to provide that assistance”.

In short, the effort is collective and the goal is to succeed, all together, in stopping the fury of the flames. Hoping it starts raining soon.

In the pic above, a wildfire in the Northwest Territories (photo from Twitter – @redcrosscanada)