Pictured on the left is the portion of Yukon College’s salmon incubation facility that burned down on Mar. 31. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Fire that destroyed Yukon College salmon facility caused $30k in damage

A fire at the McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility in March killed an estimated 46,000 salmon fry

A fire that destroyed a portion of Yukon College’s salmon incubation facility in Whitehorse back in March, killing an estimated 46,000 chinook and chum salmon fry in the process, caused about $30,000 worth in damage, a college spokesperson said May 2.

Michael Vernon said that following an assessment, Yukon College determined that it lost about $30,000 in equipment and resources in the March 31 fire that gutted one of four buildings that make up the McIntyre Creek Salmon Incubation Facility. The college is also anticipating spending another $17,000 to remove debris from and clean up the site, work that can’t begin until the area thaws out.

At the time of the fire, which is believed to have been caused by a heat trace being used to thaw frozen pipes, the building housed about 25,000 to 30,000 chinook salmon fry and 16,000 chum salmon fry. They 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.

Following the fire, the college set up screens in McIntyre Creek to filter out fire debris and, on the slim chance that any of the fry had somehow survived and made it into the water, prevent them from entering the larger water system.

As of May 2, no fry have been recovered.

The facility also hasn’t been used since the fire, Vernon said, because the fry and the building that burned down were at the core of the operation. The next time the facility may see any activity is if the 2,000 salmon fry being raised in Whitehorse schools through the Stream to Sea program are brought in for tagging.

The college is currently having conversations with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation about the future of the facility.

In an emailed statement, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council said that meetings will be held in the next few months to develop plans.

“For example, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council would like to be involved with the reconstruction of the hatchery and hopes that clean-up and rebuilding could incorporate employment opportunities for Citizens. It is also possible that, as per requests, a ceremony will be held in the near future for the fish that perished,” the statement said.

“As for fry, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council is thankful that some fry are swimming along in Whitehorse schools through Fisheries and Oceans’ ‘Stream to Sea’ program…. The Fox Creek Salmon Restoration Project is a strong multi-year project and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council is very thankful for the support the project is being shown at this challenging time.”

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

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