Highway reopens as Carmacks fires cool

The Robert Campbell Highway reopened Saturday thanks to reduced wildfire activity in the area. The road has been intermittently closed over the past week because of a fire burning near the Little Salmon River.

The Robert Campbell Highway reopened Saturday thanks to reduced wildfire activity in the area.

The road has been intermittently closed over the past week because of a fire burning near the Little Salmon River.

Motorists are being asked to exercise caution when travelling the road, as firefighters continue to work in the area.

Conditions may be smoky, which could affect visibility on the highway. Drivers should also be alert to burnt trees, which could fall onto the road.

Campgrounds that were previously closed because of the fires near Carmacks have reopened as well.

Rain and cooler temperatures have reduced the fire danger rating to low across the territory, with the exception of Old Crow, where the risk is moderate.

However, 116 firefighters from Yukon, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan continue to work on persistent fires.

The Mandanna Lake Fire, 22 kilometres southeast of Carmacks, is an estimated 22,000 hectares in size, although it has shown no growth in recent days.

Firefighters continue to patrol the control lines for hot spots.

Smoky conditions have lifted in Carmacks as of Monday morning, but may still be encountered in the area as fires continue to burn.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s medical officer of health, said that smoky conditions across the territory last week did not cause a major increase in emergency room visits.

“You see some reports of asthma but I wouldn’t say there has been a big spike,” said Hanley.

Smoke can trigger problems, especially in people with underlying respiratory conditions, he said.

But the conditions in the Yukon in recent weeks have not been severe enough to affect most healthy people, said Hanley.

“We haven’t had, so far, prolonged periods where it’s just really socked in, and I think that really helps.”

In Carmacks, where smoke was thick during parts of last week, nurses met with individuals with respiratory conditions to discuss plans in case of an emergency, said Hanley.

People who have health conditions that might be triggered are advised to stay indoors and limit physical exertion when smoke is present.

Visibility is a good indicator of the risk level associated with smoky conditions, said Hanley.

“If you can kind of smell it, but you can see a long way, it’s unlikely to cause problems except to the most sensitive people.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

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