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NWT offers support to those affected by Fort McMurray fire

NWT residents are doing their part to assist those displaced by the devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta.

As of Thursday morning, an estimated 1,600 homes and other buildings had been destroyed by the fire, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency in the province.

More than 80,000 people have fled their homes in the largest evacuation order ever issued in Alberta due to a wildfire. Roughly a quarter of evacuees traveled south to Edmonton.

NWT Premier Bob McLeod expressed his sympathies for Fort McMurray residents Wednesday and offered to help in any way the territorial government can.

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“As Northerners, we know all too well the potentially devastating impact of wildfires and the threat they can pose to communities and people,” he said in a statement.

“We also know firsthand the challenges involved in fighting wildland fires and the tremendous demands it places on emergency responders, fire crews, air crews and all others who take their stand on the frontlines on behalf of their fellow citizens.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with these brave men and women and with all those currently displaced by this fire.”

McLeod has told Alberta Premier Rachel Notley the territory is prepared to offer help in the form of firefighting efforts or in the rebuild to come.

“I want to assure the people of Fort McMurray that Albertans can depend on their friends and neighbours in the Northwest Territories to offer support and assistance in these trying times and the weeks to come.”

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Meanwhile, leaders in the territory’s Dehcho region are organizing fundraising efforts of their own and are encouraging community members to participate.

Two years ago, the small community of Kakisa was evacuated when a wildfire touched the edge of the community.

Joachim Bonnetrouge, chief of the Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation in Fort Providence, is encouraging community members to reach out to the people of Fort McMurray.

“We have been watching the news and have seen what is happening to the people of Fort McMurray,” he said in a statement.

“Our elders have always taught us to help each other. If you want to help, this will give us all the opportunity to.”

At Yellowknife’s Black Knight Pub, servers donated their tips to the Red Cross on Wednesday to assist those who have been displaced by the wildfire.

The city’s uptown Your Independent Grocer is also accepting donations to the charity.

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Wildfire experts say a perfect storm of factors – a mild winter, low humidity and unseasonably high spring temperatures – has allowed the fire to grow so aggressively.

Those factors have many believing that the situation will get much worse before it gets better.

What’s in store for the NWT’s wildfire season? 

The territorial government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources will brief the media on the NWT’s wildland fire situation Thursday afternoon.

Senior fire officials will provide an update on the current situation and an outlook for the week to come.

Two weeks ago, a fire research scientist told 100.1 the Moose the territory could be in store for a quick start to the forest fire season given the relatively dry winter we experienced.

2014 was the Northwest Territories’ worst forest fire season on record, when 385 fires burnt roughly 3.5 million hectares of land.

Despite a fast start to 2015, a total of 245 wildfires were recorded on the season, burning 646,954 hectares.

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