‘Mixed bag’ of a fire season wraps up

Officials are calling this year's fire season a success. "We didn't have any fatalities. We didn't lose any structures.

Officials are calling this year’s fire season a success.

“We didn’t have any fatalities. We didn’t lose any structures. No major injuries,” said George Maratos with Wildland Fire Management.

The group’s mandate is to protect people, property, and their own staff. By those measures, it has been a good year.

This year there were 125 fires that burned an area of about 92,000 hectares. That’s more fires, but a smaller area than the 25-year average of 94 fires and 136,000 hectares.

“It was kind of a mixed bag in terms of the fire season. It was kind of like the summer,” Maratos said.

There was one hot week of extreme fire activity when we had to call on resources from Outside, but in calmer periods the Yukon was able to offer help to British Columbia, Alberta and Alaska.

There were about 35 human-caused fires this summer.

Most of these were accidental. However, about a dozen incidents of arson in the Mayo area greatly concerned officials. No new suspicious fires have occurred in several weeks.

“Fortunately, it looks as though this person has realized that not only were they impacting themselves but their entire community,” Maratos said. “I think the message got out there that it’s not smart and it’s not going to be tolerated.”

Over the off-season, Wildland Fire Management will retire two of its Firecat airtankers, which were originally built in the 1940s as military planes. They will be replaced with more fuel-efficient aircraft.

Another priority will be to recruit more young firefighters.

“A lot of our firefighters are veterans. They’ve been doing it for a long time,” Maratos said.

Firefighting allows staff to take the winters off, and it is suitable for the Yukon lifestyle, said Maratos. He hopes that young people finishing high school who are not interested in college or university but want to work outdoors and put their skills to use will consider the career.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com