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‘Significant’ fire season ahead, Yukon’s premier warns following northern premiers’ forum

Fire officials say it’s tough to predict fire season
Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai (left), Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok and Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane pose for a photo during the 2023 northern premiers’ forum held in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. (Submitted/Government of the Northwest Territories)

Yukon Premier Ranj Pillai is warning of a “significant” fire season on the horizon based on snow load and water levels.

“It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

“We need people to be ready.”

According to Yukon Wildland Fire Management officials, things are starting to heat up in the territory, but it’s difficult to forecast the fire season.

The premier’s comments were made to reporters during a teleconference on May 17 following the northern premiers’ forum with the premiers of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

According to cabinet communications, Pillai’s comments were made in the context of preparing for the worst-case scenario as fires rage across the country. The Yukon has sent firefighters to Alberta, which is under a state of emergency as more than 2,500 fire personnel are working on fires under hot, dry conditions. That includes an 18-person crew from Yukon First Nation Wildfire and an agency representative from Yukon Wildland Fire Management.

With fires and flooding on top of mind, the trio of northern premiers indicated the North is experiencing the impacts of climate change with more severity and occurrence of disasters.

During the forum, the premiers said, they focused on the cost of living, health, infrastructure and climate change.

The premiers said they are continuing to try to push northern issues to the national forefront.

Officials from the federal National Defence department briefed the premiers on North American Aerospace Defense Command. The premiers will continue to seek support for dual-use infrastructure and clean energy initiatives, including money from the federal government and the private sector, as per a joint communique.

Dual-use infrastructure refers to roads, broadband internet capabilities, electrical grid infrastructure and other infrastructure that can be used for civilian and military purposes.

Pillai noted the premiers were aware of risk before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and unidentified objects were being shot down in Canadian and United States airspace.

“We are behind already,” he said.

“The country needs to move on.”

Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane noted Canada is slow to respond to the sea opening up as a result of climate change as other countries are building up their ships and infrastructure.

“I’ve often felt that the North was just kind of plopped here and just kind of left to fend for ourselves,” she said.

“Canada needs to make sure that the North is protected — that Canada is projected. They need to make sure that Arctic sovereignty is here.”

In addition, the premiers are looking for specific funding under the urban, rural and northern Indigenous strategy to address affordability and housing.

The premiers are calling for “secure territorial allocations” regarding the investing in Canada infrastructure program, with terms that recognize the fiscal capacity, priorities and distinct realities of each jurisdiction.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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