Smoke and heat once again rolling across southern N.W.T. communities

·2 min read
Burned trees line a section of Highway 1, 50 kilometres outside of Wrigley, N.W.T., on July 12, 2022. The wildfire that caused this burn continues to hold, but a second wildfire is now burning 19 kilometres away from the community. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)
Burned trees line a section of Highway 1, 50 kilometres outside of Wrigley, N.W.T., on July 12, 2022. The wildfire that caused this burn continues to hold, but a second wildfire is now burning 19 kilometres away from the community. (Liny Lamberink/CBC - image credit)

Thursday's weather forecasts contained a familiar summer sight for southern N.W.T. communities: a bounty of heat warnings and air quality advisories.

It's a continuation of the heat and smoke that has rolled across much of the territory in recent days.

With heat warnings in Fort Liard, Fort Providence and Fort Smith expected to stick around until at least Friday, another blanket of smoke is also expected in most South Slave, North Slave and Deh Cho communities.

Some wildfires of note have also grown in size over the past several days, including a fire that prompted a voluntary evacuation of staff in the Taltson Dam area.

That fire, which was 9,000 hectares in size on Tuesday, has since grown to 23,590 hectares. It's burning about 38 kilometres outside Fort Smith and within eight kilometres of Taltson Dam facilities.

According to N.W.T. Fire, a bit of rain fell on that wildfire Wednesday but the area is expected to dry out and warm up in the coming days.

"Conditions in the area of the fire are expected to remain extremely challenging throughout the week — with record or near-record temperatures and strong winds, causing extremely dangerous conditions for both fire growth and crews on the ground," the territory's environment department stated on its website.

Environment Canada has issued both a heat warning and a smoke advisory for Fort Smith, though temperatures are expected to cool off this weekend.

Fire crews are still doing structure protection in the Taltson dam area to reduce the risk to cabins and infrastructure, including the dam's facilities.

Wrigley wildfire

In the Deh Cho, a wildfire 19 kilometres southeast of Wrigley has grown from about 200 hectares in size to 1,579 hectares at last count, according to N.W.T. Fire.

There is poor visibility in the area, which has made it hard for crews to assess the fire.

Earlier this week, Kyle Clille, the interim band manager for Pedzéh Kı̨ First Nation in Wrigley, told CBC the community was concerned about the direction the fire was headed in.

He noted they were particularly worried the fire would top Bell Ridge.

According to the environment department, southerly winds pushed the fire parallel to the ridge instead of up it, but fire crews haven't been able to finish establishing a fire control line for the ridge because of conditions on the ground.

"As a result, we're reassessing potential control line locations near the community," the department noted on its website.

Wrigley is still not at threat, the department's website stated, but that could change quickly as warm and dry conditions persist.