This handout image shows a fire protection system in place to protect the Rampart House historic site near Old Crow. (Handout/Yukon Wildland Fire Management)

Yukon can’t spare firefighters to help B.C., officials say

Busy fire season continues with major blazes near Dempster Highway, Old Crow, Mayo

Yukon Wildland Fire Management says firefighters won’t be heading to B.C. to help with the wildfires burning there, at least for now.

B.C. has put out a national request for firefighters to help with 220 active wildfires burning across the province.

But a busy wildfire season in the territory means Yukon isn’t able to send anyone, said fire information officer George Maratos.

If the Yukon’s conditions improve and B.C. still needs help, that could change, he said.

There have been 77 wildfires in the territory so far this season, with 57 of them still active.

That’s about on par with the Yukon’s five and 10 year averages, Maratos said. But this year’s fires are larger than average.

That’s because most of them are burning in remote areas.

“So we can let them do their natural thing and therefore they’re going to get quite large,” he said.

That includes the largest single fire currently burning in the territory, a blaze estimated at 62,400 hectares near kilometre 284 of the Dempster Highway.

“Due to the size, travellers can expect closures, delays and smoky conditions,” said a statement from Wildland Fire Management.

Eight fires burning in the territory’s Northern Tutchone region have officials warning paddlers to stay away from the area’s major rivers, the Snake, Wind and Bonnet Plume.

A total of more than 60,000 hectares are burning in the area, creating intense smoky conditions, fire officials say.

“The fires burning along these rivers are very large and active and because of that paddlers can expect to encounter thick smoke,” Yukon duty officer Mike Sparks said in a statement.

“Our advice is to avoid the rivers if you can as the experience won’t be that pleasant.”

Maratos said those eight fires have been burning for sometime but became more active over the weekend.

“It was quite hot in the area and windy so they’ve just kind of become more active and that’s why they’ve grown in size.”

Meanwhile 24 fires are still burning around Old Crow.

The only action firefighters are taking for now is to protect some resources in the area like the Rampart House historic site.

Sprinklers have been set up around the buildings and brush is being cleared to keep the area safe, Maratos said.

The only new fire to spring up in the last 24 hours is burning 178 kilometres east of Mayo near the Plato airstrip.

Firefighters in the area are currently focused on a 62-hectare blaze burning much closer to the community, about 11 kilometres northwest of Mayo near Minto Creek.

Firefighters from other parts of the territory are expected to join personnel already on site today.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com