Yukon government monitoring Donnie Creek wildfire

Alaska Highway remains open, but travellers are advised to check road updates

The Donnie Creek wildfire burns in an area between Fort Nelson and Fort St. John, B.C., in this undated handout photo provided by the BC Wildfire Service. (HO-BC Wildfire Service/Canadian Press)

The Donnie Creek wildfire burns in an area between Fort Nelson and Fort St. John, B.C., in this undated handout photo provided by the BC Wildfire Service. (HO-BC Wildfire Service/Canadian Press)

The Yukon government says it is closely monitoring the ongoing Donnie Creek wildfire in northeastern British Columbia.

In a June 16 statement, the government said it is committed to ensuring residents and businesses in the territory have the information they need to stay safe during natural disasters and times of crisis.

The government said as the Donnie Creek wildfire is burning within a few kilometres of the Alaska Highway, it will continue to hold daily meetings through its Emergency Measures Organization with emergency partners in British Columbia and within the Yukon to monitor the situation and prepare to respond if and when needed.

The Donnie Creek wildfire is burning at more than 553,300 hectares, becoming one of the largest recorded wildfires in B.C.’s history, according to BC Wildfire Service.

The statement said the Alaska Highway is open, however, people planning to travel using the Alaska Highway should check www.driveBC.ca for the latest road updates or call 1-800-550-4997.

Updates will also appear on yukon.ca/emergencies, Yukon 511 and Yukon Protective Services pages on Facebook and Twitter if the highway closes.

“Advance planning is in place to ensure the Yukon remains supplied with essentials, including fuel and food, in case of a highway closure,” the Yukon government statement read. “The Yukon has multiple transport links leading outside the territory, including the Stewart Cassiar Highway through the B.C. interior, airports, and ferry and freight access at Alaska seaports.”

The Yukon government urges all Yukoners to prepare an emergency kit containing basic supplies for every member of their household that can be easily accessed in an emergency.

“The kit should allow each individual to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours without power or running water,” it said.

In the statement, Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said in the face of the unpredictable nature of wildfires, proactive monitoring and preparedness are of the utmost importance.

“By diligently keeping watch and staying one step ahead, the Yukon government will be prepared to coordinate and communicate with Yukoners during natural disasters,” he said.

In the statement, Highways and Public Works Minister Nils Clarke said the government is actively monitoring the impact the Donnie Creek wildfire may have on Yukon residents and visitors.

The Yukon government has deployed about 30 firefighters from the territory to help respond to the emergencies in B.C. and Alberta this season. A total of 96 staff have been assigned to mutual-aid responses. However, the Yukon government noted crews could be recalled within 24 hours if the need arises.

Government, First Nations renew firefighting partnerships

In another development, the Yukon government said it has renewed its firefighting partnerships with First Nations for the wildfire season.

According to a June 15 statement, the government said this is in line with keeping to its commitment to work in partnership with Yukon First Nations and being there for Yukoners in times of crisis.

The agreements for managing wildfires in the territory were renewed for a three-year term and outline hiring procedures for initial attack firefighters across the Yukon.

As part of the agreement, both parties commit to developing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan that will highlight priority risk reduction locations for future FireSmart funding.

The statement said one of the agreements encompasses a new initial attack crew administration arrangement between the territory and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

With this, starting this year, Carcross/Tagish First Nation citizens hired under this model can become seasonal Yukon government employees.

This is in addition to 12 initial attack crew services agreements with other Yukon First Nations.

“Several models for wildfire response are in place across the Yukon depending on the preference of First Nations governments for direct hiring of wildland firefighters or delegating administration to others,” the statement read, noting while some First Nations hire crew members directly through development corporations, others delegate contracts to Yukon First Nations Wildfire.

The contracted employees are then trained and integrated on a yearly basis into the territorial Wildland Fire Management organization.

The agreement between Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the Yukon government exists in recognition of the wildland firefighting components in the Carcross/Tagish First Nation Final Agreement.

In the statement, Mostyn said Yukon First Nations have a long history of working with local fire management agencies that predates devolution.

Before devolution, many Yukon First Nations governments hired and maintained separate wildland fire crews.

“Through government-to-government agreements, we are supporting economic opportunities for First Nations governments in wildfire management while also contributing to the Yukon’s proactive efforts to manage wildfires,” he said.

Contact Patrick Egwu at patrick.egwu@yukon-news.com