A fire on March 31 that gutted a Whitehorse building housing on along Mountain View Drive also killed an estimated 46,000 chinook and chum salmon fry. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

46,000 salmon fry believed dead after fire at Yukon College facility

The McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility building housing chinook and chum fry burned March 31

Yukon College is evaluating the damage caused by a fire March 31 that gutted a Whitehorse building housing an estimated 46,000 chinook and chum salmon fry.

No fish are believed to have survived the blaze.

The 25,000 to 30,000 chinook salmon fry and 16,000 chum salmon fry were being raised as part of Fox Creek restoration projects being undertaken in collaboration with Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, respectively.

“For 2018, (the year) is essentially a lost year,” Yukon College communications coordinator Michael Vernon said April 3. “It’s a lost year, so in the coming years, there will be potentially less fish, less salmon, returning to spawn in Fox Creek.”

The building that burned down was one of four that make up the college’s McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility, which has been operating since 1993. The chinook project has been ongoing for nearly a decade, Vernon said, while the chum salmon project was in its first year.

The Whitehorse Fire Department was called to the scene along Mountain View Drive at 2:18 p.m. on March 31. Fire prevention officer Wayne Smyth said a crew of four trucks and six firefighters arrived to find one of the buildings ablaze.

Although the fire was knocked down “fairly quickly,” Smyth said crews remained on scene for about four hours working on hot spots. There was “no indication of suspicious circumstances” surrounding the cause of the blaze, he added, which is believed to have been caused by a heat trace being used to thaw frozen pipes.

Vernon said no staff were in the facility when the fire started. A college instructor and three student employees who monitored the facility are now in the process of creating a list of equipment lost in the fire, Vernon added, and as such, the college is still calculating the monetary damage the fire caused. The college has also reached out to Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to set up meetings to discuss operating the facility and the possibilities of rebuilding.

Not all hope has been lost on the chinook front though — about 1,200 chinook fry are being raised in classrooms across the Whitehorse area as part of the restoration project.

“Right now, this summer, those would be the main, primary fish that will be released… So that’s our only silver lining in the whole thing right now, really, is that we know that that can still go ahead,” Vernon said.

The student employees will also be monitoring screens set up in the McIntyre Creek just in case some fry somehow survived the blaze and ended up in the water, although Vernon described the chance of that having happened as “very slim.”

The response from Ta’an Kwäch’än citizens and other community members following the news of the fire has also been very supportive, he added.

“It’s just always great, when something like this happens and it’s such devastating loss to that program, it’s great when people step forward and offer to help,” he said.

Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Canada Post rotating strikes hit Whitehorse

Whitehorse postal workers went on strike the morning of Nov. 9

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Aw, shucks: Wayfarer Oyster House is open for business

Wayfarer Oyster House has its soft opening

Until there’s a traffic light ‘we’re not going to stop’: Hillcrest Community Association president

A petition signed by 22 people was tabled in the legislative assembly on Nov. 8

Striking workers allege assault and threats

Many Rivers workers say their picket line was “stormed”

UPDATED: Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower dies unexpectedly

Judge remembered for his balance and diligence, as well as his love for theatre and motorcycles

Twelve months and a strike: Many Rivers workers serve strike notice

Job action is set to start Friday afternoon, when workers will walk off the job

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver discusses carbon pricing plans

The federal backstop will be active in July

About 350 Yukoners are waiting for cataract surgery

The News spoke to one person who has been waiting for almost two years to have the procedure done

New Whitehorse city council sworn in

Councillors say they’re excited to get started on strategic planning

Commentary: Lack of affordable housing in the Yukon is not about funds, but how we spend them

Why are we not building apartment complexes to serve the lower and lower-middle income bracket?

Driving with Jens: When should you plug your vehicle in?

You can probably still start your car without plugging it in at -25 C or colder, but you shouldn’t.

Yukonomist: Too far up the supply curve

Some copper mines come in and out of production as global demand for the metal surges and ebbs.

Most Read