NWT Fire to Fort Good Hope returnees: ‘The fire has changed the land you live on … the forest will grow back.’

The massive wildfire is not out, but community is secure, as there is very little forest fuel left nearby

Most of the evacuated residents of Fort Good Hope will have returned home by today. On Friday night, there was a community feast and drum dance, where those who had died under different circumstances since June 15 were remembered and firefighters were thanked. (Photo courtesy of Gillian Tobac)

The Fort Good Hope wildfire — which forced the evacuation of the community for three weeks  — has transitioned to a mop up stage and the line adjacent to the community is secure.

Chief Collin Pierrot stated in a social media post late Saturday night that the last plane was to arrive with the last of the evacuees that were sent to Norman Wells.

Fort Good Hope wildfire VQ001 a few days after the community was evacuated. (Photo courtesy of Karen Stoelwinder)

“These past two weeks has been a roller coaster of emotions, especially for crews that were struggling to work after the incident of the helicopter crash (which killed pilot Tom Frith), and the sudden passing of a young friend, father, brother and uncle, Harley Pierrot.”

Community resident Gillian Tobac stated that a community gathering Friday night was a “good and appropriate conclusion to the whole fire crisis,” and a chance to remember those who had died.

“Our humble gratitude to the firefighters who came from elsewhere to help us, by sharing a delicious meal and then an enthusiastic drum dance.

“We have been blessed with a lot of rain today as well, which shows God’s love and mercy for the people of Fort Good Hope. Thank you to everyone who prayed. God sure does answer prayer!”

The risk from wildfire VQ001 has drastically reduced for the community and firefighters will continue to be active in the area for mop up, stated NWT Fire’s Thomas Bentham in a release.

He had a message for residents, who began returning Friday:

A map from late last week showing the extent of wildfire VQ001. (Image courtesy of NWT Fire)

“The fire has changed the land you live on. It may be difficult to see. Take care of your mental health and each other as you return to the community — and remember that the forest will grow back.

“The area may be smoky upon your return, and when conditions get dry and hot enough, more smoke may come. Take care of your health, and on smoky days, stay inside if you have health problems.

“This fire burned deep in the ground. There may be areas within the burnt area where there are hot ash pits which could hurt you if you fall in them. Avoid burned areas for now.”

There will be continued firefighting efforts in the community. NWT Fire cautions folks to steer clear of equipment for safety reasons and give crews space to do their work.

NWT Fire also stated trees may fall down easily in places previously used by residents.

“It is extremely dangerous to travel through burned areas right now,” stated Bentham.

The fire is not out and there could be flare-ups happen in the distance, but the community is secure because there is very little forest fuel left nearby.

NWT Fire will continue to monitor the situation and take action as needed.

In other regions:

North Slave

ZF022 (Russel Lake)

Located 32 kilometres northwest of Behchokǫ̀, in the Russel Lake area, this was likely caused by lightning and was quickly actioned by aircraft. The helicopter assigned successfully suppressed the fire and a crew from Gamèti is working to extinguish it. There is no risk to cabins or infrastructure in the area.

ZF011 (North of Edzo)

Wildland firefighters tackle the Edzo fire ZF011 last week (Photo Courtesy of NWT Fire)

Weekend weather is expected to put pressure on the fire to move east — right into the shores of Marian Lake.

The fire has is classified as ‘being held.’

“This does not mean the fire is under control — more work is still required to lessen the risk of the fire’s continued growth as the peak of the fire season unfolds,” stated Bentham.

The lightning caused fire began on the west shores of Marian Lake near a location known locally as Marian Lake Village on June 30, and received aggressive initial attack from the air and ground upon discovery.


FS025 (Yukon/NWT border)

This fire was likely caused by lightning and is located 33 kilometres west of Fort Liard near the NWT/Yukon border.

This natural fire, roughly 280 hectares in size, is not a risk to any values or infrastructure and we will continue to monitor its activity.

FS022, FS023, FS008 Martin Liard Complex Fire (three distinct blazes)

FS022 : 40 kilometres west of Fort Simpson in Martin Hills

FS023 : 34 kilometres west of Fort Simpson in Martin Hills

FS008 : 45 kilometres south-southwest of the Fort Simpson Airport, 17 kilometres past the junction of Highways 1 and 7

These lightning-caused fires are being actioned by NWT and Saskatchewan crews.

Along with air support, firefighters will continue work on suppression and containment.

FS022 and FS023 have challenging terrain in the Martin Hills between 34 to 30 kilometres west of Fort Simpson.

The goal is to prevent fire from taking hold in the forest to the west of Fort Simpson.

There are no immediate threats to cabins or communities. Highway access on Highway 7 has been periodically impacted.

The objective in managing fire FS022 is full extinguishment to prevent the fire from taking hold in continuous forest fuel with a path to Fort Simpson.

The fire has grown to roughly 34 hectares since discovery. It is in challenging terrain with limited water sources.

Fire FS008 was previously brought under control, but it flared up under hot, dry conditions and heavy winds, and jumped containment and has grown to 164 hectares at assessment before the weekend.

Dozer guards — fuel breaks at the edge of the fire — have been established to reduce the likelihood of growth into more volatile fuels to the east. Ground crews continue containment efforts.

Helicopters may land on Highway 7 (Liard Trail) to facilitate operations. Fire crews will be working between kilometre marks 238 and 232. Pilot vehicles may be used to ensure safety.

South Slave

ZF021 (Near boundary of Thaidene Nene Territorial Protected Area)

This lightning-caused fire may be visible to those travelling within Thaidene Nene, and across the East Arm in Lutselk’e.

This fire has not entered the Thaidene Nene Territorial Protected Area, but the potential does remains despite quieter fire activity now.

Though there are no immediate threats to communities, cabins, infrastructure, or other values.

SS009 (Cameron Hills Fire (Highway 35/1 – NWT/AB border)

Crews have started a long-term plan to manage this fire for the protection of values of risk with the objective of protecting cabins, infrastructure and other values in the fire area.

SS022 (Northeast of Cameron Hills)

Crews have set up structure protection on the values potentially at risk in the fire area. There are none immediately threatened, but with continued growth, there may be in the future. All communities in the area are well-protected by last year’s burns.

Environment Canada issued a air quality alert for this afternoon for South Slave. Wildfire smoke is also limiting visibility in South Slave and Dehcho regions.


About the Author

James O'Connor
James O’Connor joined CKLB 101.9 FM at the start of 2024, after working as a journalist, photo editor and managing editor at newspapers in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. James also has experience in politics, arts, service clubs and the NWT’s non-profit sector. At this point in his lengthy career, James is thrilled to be working at such a unique media outlet and always welcomes notes from listeners at: james.oconnor@cklbradio.com.