Firefighters battling blaze near Dawson City

Firefighters are battling a 75-hectare wildfire that was sparked on Sunday evening near Hunker Creek, 24 kilometres southeast of Dawson City.

Firefighters are battling a 75-hectare wildfire that was sparked on Sunday evening near Hunker Creek, 24 kilometres southeast of Dawson City.

The fire is the tenth and largest reported this season, and the first caused by lightning.

Fire information officer George Maratos said the fire was lit by a single lightning strike, which is unusual.

“It shows kind of just how dry it is,” he said.

The fire was reported at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, and firefighters responded immediately by helicopter. Eighteen firefighters, two helicopters and two pieces of heavy equipment are now on the site.

A mining operation is located five kilometres away, but isn’t currently threatened.

Maratos said cooler temperatures and some rainfall are expected this week, which should help fight the flames.

The Hunker Creek fire is one of three incidents reported last weekend.

On Friday, firefighters put out a small fire near Hidden Valley school in Whitehorse. Maratos said the fire started after a campfire was lit in an unauthorized area and wasn’t extinguished properly.

“That could have been a very serious situation,” he said.

Another small fire was reported at an agricultural lot in the Pine Lake subdivision near Haines Junction on Saturday. Maratos called it a “holdover fire,” meaning it was lit earlier in the year, continued to smoulder through the winter and flared up as conditions got drier and windier.

Of the 10 wildfires reported so far this season, nine have been caused by humans.

Currently, several areas in the Yukon have an extreme fire danger rating, including Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Ross River.

“The last five days really just pushed the danger rating up, because of how warm it was,” Maratos explained. But he said those ratings should come down again this week, as temperatures are expected to drop and some areas are predicting rainfall.

Maratos said the elevated fire danger ratings this season are “above average,” but not entirely unusual. Last year, he said, there were 90 wildfires by the end of May.

He said this type of weather early in the season could become the new normal.

“It’s possibly a sign of what we can expect to see going forward,” he said. “It’s changing quite a bit across the board.”

There are currently no campfire bans in place in the Yukon. However, open fires require burning permits from the City of Whitehorse within city limits, and from the Yukon government elsewhere. Permits are suspended when the fire danger rating is moderate, high or extreme.

Maratos said fires should be doused with water, stirred, and doused again before they can be deemed properly extinguished.

“Don’t just pour the water on it and walk away,” he said, adding that extinguished fires should be cold to the touch.

Wildfires should be reported immediately to 1-888-798-3473 (FIRE).

Contact Maura Forrest at