The Yukon government is providing assistance for Alberta, which is currently battling dozens of active wildfires that have displaced roughly 30,000 people.
Earlier this week, the Yukon’s wildland fire management branch sent 21 of its personnel down to Alberta. Fire information officer Mike Fancie, who is in Alberta with the rest of the Yukon contingent, said the Yukon crew is working together on a blaze in the Pembina complex of fires burning near the town of Edson about a two hour drive from Edmonton.
Speaking with the News on May 11, Fancie said the fire the Yukoners are working on is one of the smaller ones in the complex at 216 hectares. Crews are taking advantage of favourable weather to try to reinforce a fire guard around the blaze as conditions seem likely to worsen and increase fire behaviour over the weekend.
Fancie said recent weather in the part of Alberta the Yukon crew is working in has allowed crews to regroup and allowed the outsiders to get used to fighting fire in unfamiliar country.
“When you come to a new place, it’s always a little bit dangerous because you’re getting situated and it’s unfamiliar terrain. So being able to start with something that is a little bit more controlled will hopefully set us up for success if conditions deteriorate given changing weather.”
The Yukoners are working alongside firefighters from Ontario, Quebec and Oregon as well as a management team from British Columbia to check the growth of the Pembina complex. Fancie said the wide response to the fires speaks to the seriousness of the situation but commonalities in how wildland firefighters are trained in the various jurisdictions has made for smooth cooperation.
Supplementing the contributions of the firefighters, territorial government officials announced a $25,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross to assist its efforts in Alberta. The donation was made public during a May 11 press event where Yukoners were also urged to make their own emergency preparations.
Premier Ranj Pillai discussed emergency preparedness and asked that Yukoners compile kits with everything they and their families might need for a 72-hour period if they have to leave their homes.
“Be prepared, please, because you know, all it takes is a couple of weeks of really warm weather. And we could be in a difficult situation. And putting those hours aside. And being prepared and having your family prepared and knowing where things are will pay off immensely in the future,” the premier said.
He provided recommendations for essentials including food, medication, essential documents and drinking water that should be packed up in a backpack or a carry-on suitcase.
“Make sure everyone in your house knows where the kit is and revisit it every six months to replace expired items”
Also on hand was Yukon community services minister Richard Mostyn to provide updates on the territory’s preparedness for the fire season. He said wildland fire management is fully staffed with 40 Yukon government firefighters and another 40 contracted through Yukon First Nations plus more than 50 people working in support roles. He added that the air tankers that help protect the territory during the fire season have also begun to arrive.
“It is very unusual to heed the call for help from a neighbour this early in the season, but it’s a testament to our team that they are ready to respond to the call for assistance this early in the season,” Mostyn said of the Yukon’s response to the fires in Alberta.
“We will evaluate our needs and lend resources to our neighbours in their time of need. The wildland fire management team plans to send additional capacity south including an air tanker officer trainee, an ignition specialist and an ignition specialist trainee.”
Along with providing support and assistance for firefighting efforts in Alberta, he said this deployment will also provide valuable experience for the trainees.
Mostyn praised the work of wildland fire in past years, both when actively fighting fires and when preparing permanent fire guards around Whitehorse. He also spoke to the importance of cleanup and fire smarting around homes and communities.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org