A territorial fire ban is in place for most of southern Yukon.
The ban was announced shortly after 9 p.m. on May 30 in light of the extremely dry weather conditions.
A map shows the ban area extending as far south as Watson Lake, further north beyond Faro, to the west beyond Burwash Landing and as far east as the Yukon border with the Northwest Territories.
“Officials with Wildland Fire Management note that this spring’s extended dry period, combined with current dry weather conditions, has resulted in extreme fire conditions,” a statement from Wildland Fire Management reads. “While we expect weather conditions to bring cooler and wetter conditions, an extended period of precipitation is required to address the current dry conditions and reduce the threat of wildfires in Yukon.”
The ban applies to all open fires, including campfires and fireworks. Government of Yukon campground fireplaces, stoves or other facilities provided for the purpose of having a fire can still be used as well as closed cooking tools such as covered barbeques and small cook stoves, officials said.
Days before the fire ban was put in place, City of Whitehorse officials were stressing to residents that all city burn permits were suspended in light of the fire danger.
The permits, required for any open burning within city limits, are under a temporary suspension whenever the fire danger rating is moderate to extreme.
The rating was listed as moderate on May 31, though it had been extreme previously.
The situation was a major focus of discussion among council members at the May 27 meeting with Mayor Dan Curtis pointing out that five fires the Whitehorse Fire Department responded to over the past weekend were campfires that had been abandoned or unattended.
Any of those could have turned into a wildfire, he said.
“Whitehorse had some close calls this weekend.”
The situation prompted Coun. Samson Hartland, who attended the meeting by conference call, to question the city’s role in implementing and enforcing a full ban.
The city does not have the authority to call a full ban. A total fire ban is under the jurisdiction of the territorial government by way of a ministerial order.
Rather, any open burning in city limits is covered under burn permits, which are immediately suspended whenever the fire danger raiding is listed moderate or higher.
A May 28 statement released by the city highlighted the urgency of the situation, drawing attention to the $1,000 fine for those failing to comply with the temporary suspension of burn permits.
“We face an extremely dangerous fire season here in the Whitehorse area and the conditions are ripe for wildfires. Please be mindful of this fact and report any smoke or fire that you see by calling 9-1-1,” Curtis said.
During council discussion on the situation, Hartland suggested the city explore the issue of jurisdiction on fire bans with the Yukon government in the future as a number of requests have come in from residents calling for the city to implement a full ban.
Meanwhile, the Bear Creek wildfire, located east of Haines Junction, remains out of control and had grown to 652 hectares by the night of May 30.
Twenty-four wildland firefighters, bulldozers and four helicopters were working on securing the southern base and eastern flank of the fire, Yukon Wildland Fire Management said in a bulletin May 30.
The Yukon has requested help in getting the fire under control. Sixty Outside and Yukon First Nations Wildfire wildland firefighters as well as a 15-person incident management team expected to arrive in Haines Junction May 31 to assist with the efforts.
The fire is spreading north away from Haines Junction and is not a threat to the community. Two properties closer to the fire, however, have been evacuated.
The fire, first reported May 25, is believed to be human-caused.
With files from Jackie Hong
Contact Stephanie Waddell at email@example.com