Wildfire season began in the NWT on May 1 and the GNWT is taking a proactive approach this year because conditions may change like a “light switch” for wildfires.
Richard Olsen the manager of wildfire operations in the NWT held a briefing on May 4th and is predicting an “above average” season.
“The snow cover is starting to disappear in the NWT and the month of May will almost be like a light switch when we see conditions instantly change from winter conditions to summer-like conditions,” Olsen said.
Olsen says with these conditions we see dead and dry brown grass, twigs, leaves and branches on the ground which provide fuel for fast-moving grassfires.
“June is really going to be an above-average type of potential fire severity month in the NWT,” Olsen said.
Early indications are that conditions in July and August will be severe to extreme, Olsen says.
The wildfire suppression budget for 2020 in the NWT is $14,055,000 which includes employment for 31 four-man crews and a modeling system for predicting wildfires. Olsen says the government is taking a proactive approach this year by attacking fires earlier than usual to help suppress them quicker. These early preparedness measures will ensure the NWT can effectively focus resources in the event of multiple emergencies happening at the same time.
The last two years in the NWT have been relatively quiet for wildfires with only 146 fires reported in 2019 which burned a little over 110,00 hectares. This was below the five-year-average of 152 fires Olsen says and well below the ten-year-average of 210 fires.
Human-caused wildfires are generally accidental – often started by an out-of-control campfire or spark from an off-road vehicle.
Olsen says that human activity caused 15 to 20 per cent of spring wildfires last year in the NWT and which is well below the southern average of 50 per cent in Alberta.
“Any person caused fire is still a problem because they are completely preventable,” Olsen said.
The government hopes it can meet its goal of zero per cent human-caused wildfires this year in the NWT, Olsen concluded.
For more information on fire prevention activities visit www.enr.gov.nt.ca