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WILDFIRES | N.W.T. winter fires

Fire and Ice: N.W.T. wildfires blossom amid -30 temperatures

CBC News

Friday, January 11, 2019, 9:26 AM - Just because it's –30 C doesn't mean the N.W.T. is safe from wildfires.

Three person-caused wildfires were spotted near Fort Liard in the last week, according to Richard Olsen, a fire operations manager with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR).

He said the largest one is about the size of a living room, while the other two are much smaller.

(Related: How snow can spark fires in winter)

A Facebook post on the NWT Fire page said the fires were all caused by abandoned campfires.

All the fires were caused by campfires that were left unattended, the department says. (NWT Fire/Facebook)

"January may not seem like the time to worry about fires, but the Fort Liard area is still extremely dry from a lack of fall precipitation," the post said.

"These fires can then pop back up in the spring when conditions warm up."

Olsen said fires smolder in the ground's "duff layer" — a layer of organic material like twigs, leaves and needles — all winter.

"It can be potentially quite dangerous," said Olsen.

Fort Liard is about 40 kilometres north of the British Columbia border. Olsen said the area has a lot of spruce and aspen trees, as well as duff and moss, so fires can easily spread.

The department has been monitoring the dryness of the area for some time, said Olsen, especially given the recent wildfire activities in B.C.

"It is kind of an indication to us that the area around Fort Liard continues to be quite dry," he said.

Olsen said wildfires in the N.W.T. are "fairly uncommon" in winter.

A spokesperson for the environment department said the largest fire is about the size of a living room. The other two are much smaller. (NWT Fire/Facebook)

"It's really uncommon to see three reported within a relatively short period of time."

A local crew will likely extinguish the fires by Monday, said Olsen, noting that the chance of them becoming significant fires is "really low."

The department is urging people who are making campfires for cooking and to stay warm to completely extinguish them before leaving.

"Yes, even in winter!" the Facebook post said.

This article was originally published on CBC.ca.


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