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Outside firefighters head home

Close to 150 firefighters from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan head home this week as the territory cools.

Close to 150 firefighters from B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan head home this week as the territory cools.

Most had been busy fighting two large fires in the Carmacks area that had intermittently closed the Robert Campbell Highway and inundated the community with smoke.

But activity on those fires has quieted.

Yukon firefighters will continue to monitor those fires and keep them away from roads and the community.

The Robert Campbell Highway reopened Saturday.

The road had been closed because of a fire burning on both sides of the road 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.

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.

Rain and cooler temperatures have reduced the fire danger rating to between low and moderate across the territory.

Smoky conditions have lifted in Carmacks, 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