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Madeline Lake fire reaches eight hectares, being held by crews

The wildfire burning 25 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife has grown to eight hectares in size but is being held by fire crews, according to a senior NWT fire official.

Richard Olsen, fire operations manager with the territorial government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, briefed the media on the NWT’s wildfire situation Monday afternoon.

Read: NWT Fire Season Opens With Wildfire Just Outside Yellowknife

He says early indications point to 2016 being a busy fire season in western and northern Canada because of dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures.

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On Saturday, the territory’s first wildfire temporarily forced cabins owners from their property near Madeline Lake roughly 500 meters from the Ingraham Trail.

While Olsen couldn’t say how close flames actually got to any of the buildings, cabin owners were allowed to return to them the same night the fire broke out.

Three ground crews and a helicopter were still working on the fire as of Monday afternoon. Olsen says it’s only a matter of time before the blaze is brought under control.

“We don’t expect it to grow under the current work we’re doing and if that continues, the next step will be calling it under control,” he said.

Over the weekend, a tanker was also deployed to the area. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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Olsen says all 35 of the territory’s ground crews are expected to be fully staffed by the first week of June.

Currently, there are no aircraft operating outside of the territory however, a 20-person firefighting crew is being sent to Alberta Wednesday to assist with efforts there.

‘Community protection is a shared responsibility’

As campers get ready to head out on the land this long weekend, Olsen is preaching caution.

“This is the time of year when people start to go out on the land when conditions are dry and the possibility of campfires becoming forest fires exists,” he said.

Read: Ground Conditions Dry In Yellowknife As Fire Season Begins

“We really encourage people to strongly decide if they need to have a campfire for cooking or keeping warm.

“We’re anticipating and preparing for the possibility of starts that could occur and because of dry conditions, it will be more difficult to extinguish than we would expect in a normal season.

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“Community protection as a whole is a shared responsibility between individual homeowners, the community and government.”

While the territory’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is responsible for issuing fire bans in territorial parks, Olsen says it’s possible his department will recommend implementing one.

“It’s possible,” he said. “There are some pretty dry conditions out there but in some areas it’s raining and snowing. It’s a situation we’ll have to take a look at.”

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