Controlled burning pins 22,000-ha wildfire south of Wrigley in place

·2 min read
Burnt trees stand in ash along the road to Wrigley, N.W.T. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)
Burnt trees stand in ash along the road to Wrigley, N.W.T. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)

The wildfire burning south of Wrigley is holding steady at just under 22,000 hectares in size and controlled burns have helped pin it against an area of forest that's already burned.

Mike Westwick, a wildfire information officer with the N.W.T. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the work to hold the fire in place is what allowed crews to do further assessment of the area, leading to the discovery of two burned cabins.

"Smoke and ash being very heavy has challenged things, like flights, that we would do in the area to assess these kinds of things, and sometimes you just simply can't see them, because the smoke is so thick," Westwick told CBC's Loren McGinnis during a Wednesday morning interview on The Trailbreaker.

"That whole area has been under a warning for wildfire smoke and ash for some time now, and we expect that to continue for some time. It was a fire that was burning very intensely, and those are just the kinds of conditions that result."

Liny Lamberink/CBC
Liny Lamberink/CBC

Westwick said work to protect Enbridge pipeline infrastructure has gone well, with no losses so far, and the department isn't aware of any other structures burning in the area.

There were 121 fires burning in the territory as of Wednesday evening and 336,640 hectares have burned so far this year.

Westwick said a "cluster" of fires started north of the Ingraham Trail yesterday. All but one — a fire burning "quite a ways north of Prelude Lake" — have been brought under control.

Liny Lamberink/CBC
Liny Lamberink/CBC

Fires spark towering clouds over Yellowknife area

As first reported by Cabin Radio, a wildfire burning on the North Arm of Great Slave Lake sparked a towering pyrocumulonimbus cloud near Yellowknife.

Those clouds helped prompt a flurry of calls to Westwick, he noted.

"Understandably so," he said. "It's very natural, when the sky starts to look somewhat apocalyptic and you're sitting on a patio having dinner, and suddenly you've got white ash falling on you — it's a natural feeling, and it's our job to let people know when risk does exist and when it doesn't.

Photo submitted by Chelsea Nickerson
Photo submitted by Chelsea Nickerson

"I'm happy to say right now there's no immediate threat to the city of Yellowknife and, indeed, any community in the territory at this time."

Still, he noted dry conditions and high fire danger persist in areas across the N.W.T.

"Where there's rain, [it's] generally being paired with thunder and [a] chance of lightning," he said.

Fire danger remains high in at least one monitoring station in every region, and especially so in the North Slave. Danger is listed as extreme in Fort Liard, Fort Providence, Fort Smith, Hay River, Wekweeti, Behchoko and Yellowknife.

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