The territorial government is promising “as much credible information as possible” to help you keep track of forest fires in the NWT this summer.
On Tuesday, the territory published its full report on last year’s fires – the worst in territorial history.
The 2014 fire season saw 385 recorded fires, which cost $56.1 million to combat.
The GNWT fears 2015’s forest fires could be as bad, or worse, and the report pledges a range of improvements. Chief among them is a commitment to keep the public better informed.
“We need to have a more coordinated ‘one voice’ to speak to folks,” said Michael Miltenberger, the environment minister.
“We’ll put out daily online updates to fire maps, to make sure there’s enough information out there to preclude rumours, fear, apprehension and stress, that may be needless if people could see exactly what’s happening – or know what’s happening – and not rely on what they hear at the coffee shop.
“We’ll make sure there is as much credible information out there as possible.”
Given the devastating 2014 season passed without any loss of life, Miltenberger told Moose FM he continues to have faith in the territory’s preparations.
“We’re ready. We’ve been girding our loins for this coming season. We’ve been getting our equipment ready to go, our staff mobilized, and we’ve learned some things we’re going to improve on,” said Miltenberger.
“Overall, the system is there. It did the job last year, with the exception of a couple of unfortunate circumstances.
“We’re going to have the same, high-quality firefighting contingent on the ground and in the air, protecting the people of the Northwest Territories.”
Those “unfortunate circumstances” include properties lost to last year’s fires and close calls where people could have been injured by helicopter rotors.
“Back in the late 70s we had a terrible fire season with six or seven fatalities, planes crashing, folks walking into helicopters, killed by falling trees,” recalled Miltenberger.
“Thank goodness, we have never had anything like that since then. We want to make sure we avoid that.”
Safety improvements form one section of the report, while the territory will also rearrange the way its firefighters are deployed this summer.
Four-person crews will replace the five-person units used in 2014.
“We’re anticipating a fire season of equal or greater intensity than last year. They are there to do the job that’s necessary,” said Miltenberger.
“The configuration of what makes the most effective crew – after a lot of on-the-ground experience – is four-man crews in addition to the helicopters. If we reconfigure to four, we can have more crews on the ground doing the work.”
Miltenberger added, lightheartedly, that he’d like Moose FM to “get everybody to hope for a little bit of rain, and maybe play some music that’ll make it rain”.
Well, we tried.