N.W.T. fire crews mount successful Friday defence of Hay River area

More strong winds expected Saturday

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Wildfire officials say fire crews successfully defended Hay River, N.W.T., along with areas surrounding the town, Friday after a "challenging" day of firefighting.

Fire crews were expecting extreme weather Friday, N.W.T. Fire said earlier this week, with strong winds blowing in from the south and the west that could exacerbate an already challenging situation — especially in Hay River, where a wildfire is burning a kilometre and a half from the town centre.

Friday evening, officials said the day had seen hot and dry conditions, with winds gusting up to 50 kilometres per hour during the day.

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"This saw fire behaviour pick up throughout the day and smoke columns form as these winds and dry conditions bore down on the area," N.W.T. wildfire information officer Mike Westwick wrote Friday evening.

But clear air allowed for a strong aerial attack on the fire, and there was no structure loss on Friday, according to a post on the Town of Hay River Facebook page.

"We are so grateful for the efforts of all those that protected our homes on a very difficult day," reads a quote attributed to Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson.

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Cooler temperatures are expected Saturday, but strong winds could still cause some growth to the east toward Hay River, according to fire officials.

The objective Saturday will remain the same — attacking the fire from the air while continuing to seek out problem areas on the ground, Westwick said during an interview on CBC News Network.

"[We'll be] working in areas that were already impacted [by] fire to make sure that as the sun heats up, that those hot spots are not flaring up and causing additional damage," Westwick said. "So, very much a similar day today as yesterday.

"Our goal is to hold it back, and moving into Sunday, Monday, we're starting to potentially see some help from the weather in the forecast."

Hay River, the West Point First Nation and surrounding areas are still at risk given the proximity of the wildfires.

Thumbnail courtesy of Town of Hay River/Facebook via CBC.

The story was originally written and published for CBC News.