Sambaa K’e residents return, Wekweètì still evacuated: here’s the latest on N.W.T. wildfires

An aerial view of fire ZF009 threatening Wekweètì on June 30. (N.W.T. Fire/Facebook)

After a month away from home, Sambaa K’e residents returned home over the weekend. 

The wildfire that threatened the community has now burned 450,800 hectares in the N.W.T. and northern British Columbia. 

“We’re very much still working this fire,” said Mike Westwick, fire information officer with the territorial government. 

So far, though, he said, “those ignition operations that were completed outside the community have removed a fair bit of fuel out there and we’re glad that that’s been successful in creating a buffer.” 

Wekweètì fire still two kilometres away 

Last week, three fires sparked near Wekweeti. Two are on the shores of Snare Lake with wetlands between them and the community, while the third is about two kilometres away between the community and the airport. 

Westwick said the nearest fire did not grow much over the weekend and has held the same distance. 

About 50 people evacuated to Yellowknife last week. 

Westwick said crews are currently building control lines around the community and installing sprinklers. 

The fire was last measured at 73 hectares. 

Sizeable fire near Tulita ‘not considered a threat’ 

Over the past two days, 12 new fires started across the territory. 

One notable fire started near Tulita, which was mapped at about 760 hectares, 17 kilometres east of the community. 

“Any growth on that fire has occurred away from the community at this point,” said Westwick. 

He added that it is not currently considered a threat because there is a large burn area from past years between the fire and the community. 

“What that does is it acts as a natural protective barrier … There’s less fuel to work with there,” he said. 

Overall, according to N.W.T. Fire, there are 40 active fires in the territory.

Written by Francis Tessier-Burns with files from Hilary Bird

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Fire services have returned to Pelly Crossing, Yukon, after a decade without, CBC News

Norway: Smoke from Canadian wildfires forecast to reach Norway, The Associated Press

Russia: New NOAA report finds vast Siberian wildfires linked to Arctic warming, The Associated Press

Sweden: Fire bans in force across large parts of Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Wildfires in Anchorage? Climate change sparks disaster fears, The Associated Press

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