Yukon firefighters call in Ontario reinforcements

Sixty-four firefighters from Ontario are expected to arrive in Whitehorse on Saturday as Yukon firefighters scramble to take on yet another wildfire started by lightning.

Sixty-four firefighters from Ontario are expected to arrive in Whitehorse on Saturday as Yukon firefighters scramble to take on yet another wildfire started by lightning.

“Fortunately Ontario has been a little quieter now, so they’ve been able to answer the request,” said George Maratos, spokesperson for the Yukon Wildland Fire Management.

The latest fire, reported around 4 p.m. on Wednesday, is burning 19 kilometres southeast of Mayo. It is their top priority at the moment, Maratos said, given the fire-friendly conditions in the area and its proximity to the community.

An air tanker is dropping retardant around the fire perimeter to slow down its spread while ground crews are directly attacking it.

On Friday morning, Yukon Wildland Fire Management reported that 10 new fires had started since Thursday, which brings it to a total of 21 fires in the past 72 hours.

Meanwhile another crew of firefighters are still working on the North Klondike Highway fire, north of Dawson City.

“They’ve been able to limit its growth, but it’s still 37.5 hectares,” said Maratos.

Firefighters are also monitoring the remains of the four fires caused by reckless burning over the Victoria Day weekend before they can be officially declared out.

As the conditions worsen, more drastic measures are put in place.

Burning permits are suspended across the entire territory, not just in areas with moderate to extreme fire danger rating, and Parks Canada has banned campfire in Kluane National Park.

A Yukon-wide campfire ban is being considered, said Maratos.

“It is a bit of a logistical process in term of removing firewood from the campground,” he said. “A lot of people still rely on campfires for the warmth and the cooking, it’s still cool in the morning.”

Since the beginning of the wildfire season, Yukon Wildland Fire officials have been asking people to limit their use of campfires.

“Only burn if you absolutely have to,” said Maratos.

“The conditions, the way they are with the lightning and the forecast, it’s not worth it to have a fire if you don’t have to.”

As a result of more lightning forecasted for the next few days, air patrols have been increased.

“There is a chance we’ll see more starts in the coming days,” said Maratos.

Even in Old Crow, where there is still some snow, it won’t take long before the same dry conditions as the rest of the territory appear, said Maratos.

“And before we know it we could have high to extreme (danger rating) throughout the territory,” he said.

Wildfires can be reported at 1-888-798-3473 (FIRE).

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com