All 6 of the N.W.T.’s wildfires this year are suspected to be human caused, says government

19 June 2020

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CANADA – All the wildfires in the Northwest Territories so far this year have been suspected to be human caused. The territorial government says campers should be vigilant and practice fire safety.

All six wildfires in the Northwest Territories so far have been suspected to be caused by people, according to the territorial government.

Wildfires are usually caused from abandoned campfires and “carelessness,” said Angel Simon, a forest officer in Inuvik, N.W.T. Crews have been going to campgrounds and day use areas to educate people on the dangers of fires that are especially present during drier seasons.

In the Sahtu and Beaufort Delta region in particular, the conditions have been very warm and dry.

“There is no [precipitation] in the area…only 0.6 ml in the last 30 days. So once those conditions are right, we have wind, we have high temperatures. Low relative humidity,” said Simon.

“Everything comes together which will make for extreme fire weather.”

The latest wildfire started Wednesday afternoon near Madeline and Prosperous Lakes, east of Yellowknife, and was quickly put out.

Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry department has issued a high fire warning for the Fort Smith area.

On June 8, a wildfire broke out along the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway 82 kilometres from Inuvik. It’s believed someone was burning a fire that was left unattended, resulting in a Tundra fire.

“Wildfires can start any time [the] conditions are right. So for that one, the snow melted. We didn’t have any significant [precipitation] in the area,” said Simon. “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a grass fire but that’s essentially what it was.”

Check the fire map before going out

On average, human-caused fires per year over the last ten years is 11 as of June, wrote Joslyn Oosenberg, an Environment and Natural Resource spokesperson, in an email. Meaning this year hasn’t strayed from the statistical average so far.

She also wrote that the west side of the Great Slave Lake is showing drier conditions compared to normal.

On the other end of the Beaufort Delta region, a lightning fire grew to about 6,265 hectares in size about 90 kilometres south of the border with Yukon, according to Kat Hallet, a fire information officer in the Yukon.

Oosenberg wrote that the Dempster Highway is not impacted and that cooler temperatures and precipitation are likely to come in the next few days.

Oosenberg said crews are working to control the fire. Anyone going out on the land should always check the fire map, she added.

Simon said she and the crew in Inuvik have been handing out stir sticks to campers, which can be used once water is put over a fire to make sure all the ashes are burned out.

Simon said people should only be lighting campfires for warmth or to cook food.

“All we have to do is bring awareness to people and we’ve been doing that,” Simon said.

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