NWT, it’s going to be a long fire weekend

TORONTO – Firefighters in the Northwest Territories are preparing for a long and difficult weekend as a windstorm is forecast to hit the South Slave Region where fires continue to rage completely out of control. According to the latest reports from firefighters, a few “quiet” days from a meteorological point of view have allowed the crews to contain the fires at Hay River and Fort Smith, but conditions will change: strong winds from the south-southwest are in fact expected tomorrow and hot and dry conditions too: an ideal situation for the growth of the ongoing fires. 

There is particular concern about the fire located about 1.5 kilometers from the center of the city of Hay River and one kilometer from the airport and West Point First Nation and the one about 3.4 kilometers from the city of Fort Smith and 3.1 kilometers from Fort Fitzgerald in Alberta. Crews have managed to contain the fires for the past week, but weather conditions could cause the size of the fires to increase significantly.

Added to all this is the possible withdrawal of support from the Canadian armed forces in the Northwest Territories, expiring on September 5 “pending further reassessment”, a military spokesman said to CTV. The Army approved an extension to the request for assistance on Aug. 25 that would see personnel remain on the ground through Sept. 5, but tomorrow is Sept. 1 and another extension would be needed.

Since Wednesday, some 300 members of Operation Lentus have been supporting firefighting efforts in the worst-hit province. The ground task force is helping the communities of Yellowknife and Hay River by building safety belts and fire barriers and protecting critical infrastructure.

Fires near the Hay River continue to threaten the city as the fire near Yellowknife is being brought under control by crews, with government officials outlined a plan for the return of Yellowknife residents this week, although they have not provided a timeline for when people will be able to go home. The city is in “phase three” of the plan, which calls for the return of essential workers to reactivate critical services. However, the Northwest Territories government said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the plan has been suspended until further notice due to high winds and drought conditions this weekend. But residents want to get back: The RCMP released a statement on Wednesday warning officials that a group of fifty vehicles is planning to travel to Yellowknife before the evacuation order is lifted. “And they’re not going to stop at checkpoints,” said Corporal Matt Halstead of the Northwest Territories RCMP.

In the pic above, one of the wildfires in the NWT (from Twitter – @CMATeams)