Forty-one forest fires actioned in North Slave in 2022
GNWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) reported an ‘exceptionally dry summer’ in a presentation to the Wek'èezhìı Renewable Resources Board (WRRB), Sept. 14.
Lawrence Lewis, manager of forests with the ENR’s North Slave Region said during the board’s September 14 meeting that the year was unique given the conditions across traditional Tłı̨chǫ area and the North Slave region.
It was an exceptionally dry summer and an above average number of days with lightning, which resulted in intervening 41 times with 41 fires throughout the summer to protect communities, cabins, transportation corridors, and to keep (people and) their property safe from fire this summer.
Part of Lewis’ presentation touched on the importance of prioritizing the wellbeing of human life when making decisions on forest fire strategy on a day-to-day basis.
“As we have seen in recent years throughout the country, forest fires can take out whole towns within hours,” he said, pointing to the devastating effects of the wildfire in Lytton, B.C. in June 2021.
As such, impacts on people always remain a concern when ENR decides how to allocate their resources for firefighting and this year was no exception.
Lewis said in the North Slave, although 41 fires were actioned, in total there were 79 forest fires in the area with 200,273 hectares burned.
Eleven of the 79 were determined to be human caused.
In 2014, a year that many remember as being a highly active wildfire year, 3.4 million hectares were burned in the Northwest Territories.
Over the last decade, the average number of forest fires in the North Slave region have been 57, so this year was “enormously” above average for area blazes.
Lewis said that what made the 2022 first season different from previous years was how early it began.
“It’s been a very unusual season which started very early in May, which is not normal,” Lewis said, noting fire season typically begins at the end of that month.
He added that other areas of the territory saw similar patterns including in Fort Smith.
During his presentation, Lewis touched on some unique fires during the season that caused some challenges, including one that grew quickly south of Gamètì on Faber Lake - within a 2014 fire burnt area.
Yet another north of Wekweètì required a control burn to prevent quickly spreading, Lewis said.
ENR also reported that the department issued 273 free timber cutting permits in Yellowknife as well as 31 in Behchokǫ̀ between December 2021 and Sept. 1 2022.
There were also six timber cutting permits for under 30 cords issued in Yellowknife and 31 in Behchokǫ̀ and 10 timber transport permits issued in the capital with 16 for Behchokǫ̀.