Fire laps at Teslin

Firefighters continue to battle a string of wildfires that cropped up within sight of the village of Teslin. Five new fires erupted outside Teslin on Friday, shrouding the village in thick smoke and sprinkling it with cold ash.

Firefighters continue to battle a string of wildfires that cropped up within sight of the village of Teslin.

Five new fires erupted outside Teslin on Friday, shrouding the village in thick smoke and sprinkling it with cold ash.

The fires’ close proximity to Teslin has made the area a “top priority” for forest firefighters, said Wildland Fire Management.

As of Sunday night, three helicopters and numerous firefighters battled the approaching flames.

Sprinkler units have been deployed to protect at-risk property.

Paddlers are being urged to avoid the Teslin River.

The Teslin River fire, burning 60 kilometres northeast of Whitehorse, has now grown to 5,000 hectares, equal to one-eighth the size of Whitehorse city limits.

Teslin residents with respiratory issues were advised to stay indoors or relocate to Whitehorse.

Of course, Whitehorse has its own smoke issues.

A heavy veil of smoke cropped up on Saturday and intensified by Sunday morning.

Most of the Whitehorse smoke originated from a blaze located 55 kilometres northeast of the city.

Ambient smoke from Alaska may also be drifting across the border.

“On any given day, (determining smoke origin) is a bit of a crapshoot,” said David Milne, supervisor of planning for Wildland Fire Management.

Alaska is currently battling four times as many wildfires as the Yukon.

“It’s not an emergency season, but it’s the worst forest fire season since 2004-05,” said Premier Dennis Fentie, speaking at a Monday morning press conference.

The Watson Lake area exploded with 25 new lightning-caused fires on Thursday and Friday.

Airtankers and ground crews took particular notice of the MacKinnon Lake fire, burning along the Yukon/BC border.

The fire’s proximity to Watson Lake prompted “vigorous” action by fire crews, reported Wildland Fire Management.

Thick smoke along the Robert Campbell Highway forced the use of a pilot vehicle to lead motorists through areas of low visibility.

Alberta and the NWT have flown firefighters into the territory to help Yukon crews.

Nature also lent a hand with a quick Sunday rain.

Dawson counted one new fire on its outskirts on Friday, but it was quickly squelched by crews.

Throughout the Yukon, an open-fires ban remains in place – and all Yukoners are being encouraged to stay out of the backcountry, said an official release by Wildland Fire Management.

On Monday, light winds and scattered showers are expected to calm things down.

Forest fires have burned about 117,000 hectares of Yukon forest in 2009. That’s about four times the size of Whitehorse city limits.

Contact Tristin Hopper at tristinh@yukon-news.com