Community rallies to fight small wildfire near Haines Junction, Yukon

·2 min read
Community rallies to fight small wildfire near Haines Junction, Yukon
A small wildfire threatened a home in Haines Junction, Yukon on Friday evening but community members and fire crews were able to get it under control. (Submitted by Wally Bootsma - image credit)
A small wildfire threatened a home in Haines Junction, Yukon on Friday evening but community members and fire crews were able to get it under control. (Submitted by Wally Bootsma - image credit)

A couple of dozen people leapt into action Friday evening to fight a small wildfire that threatened a woman's unfinished house near Haines Junction, Yukon.

Daniel Clunies-Ross received a phone call from his mother around 6:30 p.m. alerting him to smoke near his girlfriend's property, which is about 30 kilometres west of Whitehorse and south of the Alaska Highway.

"I had very few details, just that there was a fire," said Clunies-Ross.

He got in touch with everyone in his immediately family — most of whom were home. They grabbed shovels, got in some vehicles and drove toward the site, he said.

Submitted by Wally Bootsma
Submitted by Wally Bootsma

"We drove as fast as we [could]," said Richelle Rjan, who bought the home that was at risk last November.

"I was hoping the house [wasn't] going to catch on fire."

When they first arrived at the scene, behind the Otter Falls truck stop, the fire was "very close" to the structure — but the wind was in their favour, blowing it away, Clunies-Ross said.

He led the suppression efforts until the volunteer fire department arrived about 30 minutes after he called 911.

Submitted by Wally Bootsma
Submitted by Wally Bootsma

At that point, Clunies-Ross returned home to get a small loader. He drove it back to the scene and used it to cut into the ground and form a perimeter around the fire so it couldn't spread, he said.

"I've been around fires before, it [wasn't] my first time," Clunies-Ross said. "I just made sure everybody was working with shovels and just threw dirt on it. We were able to get a couple garden hoses coming from the house."

Rjan has never dealt with a brush fire before, she told CBC News. But she's a nurse and "generally stay[s] calm in these situations."

It took a few hours to get things under control, said Clunies-Ross. No one was hurt and the house was unscathed.

"We're just really grateful for all the people... that came out, we're just grateful for all their help," he said.

According to the Yukon government, a total of 50 wildfires in the territory have burned through 55,831 hectares — or nearly 138,000 acres — of land so far this year.

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