The forest fire that claimed the Namushka Lodge last Friday east of Yellowknife may have been man-made.
Judy McLinton, communications manager with environment and natural resources (ENR), confirmed in an email to Moose FM that the blaze is believed to be human-caused.
“Fire ZF-028 is suspected person-caused fire and is under investigation,” said McLinton.
If found guilty of starting a blaze, a person(s) can be fined up to $1,000 or face a two-year jail sentence. The Crown can also try to recover firefighting costs.
The fire, which reportedly started near a cabin on Pickerel Lake, consumed the cabin and the Namushka Lodge. The blaze also forced the closure of the Ingraham Trail beyond kilometre 49.
McLinton says the investigation is being lead by a contractor from Alberta, which is normal procedure after an asset is lost to fire.
“The contractor will perform reconstruction and analysis…to determine the environmental and situational conditions that led to the fire.”
Namushka owners say they weren’t warned, ENR disagrees
In a Wednesday Facebook post, the owners of the Namushka Lodge allege they weren’t warned by ENR of the impending fire.
“We had no notification, nothing,” read the Lodge’s post. “A helicopter even flew over us when we were fleeing down to the other end of the lake and they didn’t even check in this us to see if everyone got out alive, if there was any injuries, or anything.”
In a conference call on Monday, however, officials said the owners of the lodge were contacted earlier in the day on Friday.
“There was a briefing held with the owners sometime on Friday with the regional superintendent,” said Frank Lepine, the territory’s manager of forest management. “They were aware there might be the possibility that this would occur.”
On Thursday, ENR’s McLinton again said there was contact made before the fire reached the lodge.
Crews from the NWT and Alberta continue to battle the fire, which has remained at 6356 hectares since Sunday. Highway 4 remains closed beyond kilometre 49.