Updated 4:30 Friday Aug. 7 –
“Fire operations will continue throughout the weekend and at this time residents are being advised to avoid travel in the areas after Powder Point on the Ingraham Trail.”
Despite successful burnout operations near Reid Lake, the fire raging roughly 65 kilometers out the Ingraham Trail continues to burn out of control, threatening around 24 cabins in the area.
No property has been damaged, said territorial duty officer Mike Gravel during a Friday afternoon press conference, though the flames had been within 100 feet of several cabins.
“We have an ongoing fire that’s still out of control. It’s burnt past some and going towards others,” said Gravel. All the cabins in the vicinity have been fit with sprinklers and firesmarted.
On Monday, the fire was reported to be 20,000 hectares. By Friday, it had grown to around 35,000 hectares, making it the largest fire in the territory. Sixty firefighters, seven helicopters, six CL215 water bombers and a fire retardant fleet that includes an Electra and a DC4 are involved in the operation. Gravel said there’s a sufficient number of firefighters, vehicles and equipment to fight the fire right now, but crews may be needed to be called in from the south to offer respite to exhausted NWT crews.
The areas around the Reid Lake Campground, of immediate concern earlier this week, were secured by successful burnout operations over the past few days: “We’ve essentially secured 22 kilometers of line along Harding and Reid Lakes,” said Gravel. This stopped the westward movement of the fire, but it’s still raging southeast of the lake, where the fire crews are now focusing their efforts.
The fire also jumped the Ingraham Trail, east of Reid Lake. However, the area into which it’s now spreading burned back in 1998, which means there’s less fuel and so it should be relatively easy to contain, said Gravel.
The Reid Lake Campground remains closed to the public — it’s being used as the command centre for the fire operations — and the voluntary evacuation order still remains for the Pickerel Lake area.
Brief Closure on Highway 3
Highway 3 will be closed this afternoon between Behchoko and Fort Providence while fire crews conduct preventative burns along a section of road roughly 60 kilometres past Behchoko.
Right now, a complex of three fires — which survived the winter and popped up again this year — is around 20,000 hectares in size and burning only one kilometre away from the highway.
Gravel said he expected the operation to be complete later this afternoon — so the road should be open again by this evening. “If we didn’t do the operation there’s a good chance it could be closed for days,” he said.
All told, there are 54 fires active in the territory. With dry weather and significant wind forecast for the coming weeks, it’s likely to get worse on the fire front before it gets better, said Gravel.