Hot and dry conditions expected in the Northwest Territories this summer could mean a spike in forest fires compared to last year’s slow season, according to the territory’s director of forest management.
Bill Mawdsley said the prediction for this year’s forest fire season is based on dry conditions last fall, a less than average winter snow pack, and a summer forecast calling for warmer and drier conditions than usual.
At the same time, Mawdsley said predictions can only go so far, since weather conditions can change quickly.
“Summer could turn around and become cool and wet again, or we could start getting higher temperatures, very dry conditions, windy conditions in a rather short period of time,” he told CBC News on Friday.
“It doesn’t take long for the situation to change.”
Mawdsley said the N.W.T. had a record low number of wildfires last year, recording only 42 blazes burning about 2,000 hectares of forest.
By contrast, the territory has approximately 300 forest fires on average, burning an average area of about 275,000 hectares, he added.
In terms of regions with the most forest fires, Mawdsley said the South Slave region usually has the most, with the Dehcho region not far behind.
“Eighty-two percent of all fires in the Northwest Territories are caused by lighting,” he said.
“The way the terrain is, the weather patterns and the air flow, the lightning patterns occur more often across the South Slave and Dehcho regions.”