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NT’s low key fire season saves thousands of hectares

Less than half as many fires and less than a fifth of the area was burned by wildfires in NT this fire season compared with last year.

Seventy wildfires burned 21,139 hectares across the territory, less than the 149 fires that burned 111,098 hectares in 2019.

Wet weather limited the number of fires and areas burned, with most regions of the NT experiencing more rain than forecasted. Yellowknife experienced record levels of rainfall in July.

Beaufort-Delta and the North Slave were the only regions that experienced higher than average fire risk throughout the fire season.

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“This year’s wildfire season came with a number of unique challenges,” said Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. “Staff worked very hard to prepare for what I’m almost certain was our first fire season in the middle of a global pandemic.” 

Luckily, our wet summer kept the number of fires low, allowing our crews to focus on early detection and response.”

Managing fires more actively was a priority this year, as the GNWT wanted to avoid evacuating small communities amid COVID-19.

The GNWT fought 58 per cent of all wildfires in 2020, compared to past years where only 29 per cent of fires were normally fought.

Training firefighters continued despite social distancing concerns, and was all the more important as the territory tried to limit travel into the territory from the south of Canada.

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More than 129 individuals were trained as firefighters across all five regions in 2020 — 41 as extra firefighters. Almost all fire services were provided by Northern business, according to a GNWT release.

As part of Fire Prevention Week, garden waste and debris is being collected throughout the week in Yellowknife, to help prevent wildfires.

“Fire starting is not just for one season,” said Gerda Groothuizen, deputy fire chief for Life Safety and Prevention with the Yellowknife Fire Department.  “Collecting debris, trimming back trees from your home, there’s lots of ways people can prevent fire getting into our community.”

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