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136 new fires mostly started by lightning last week: Yukon Wildland Fire

Intense smoke making Klondike Highway impassable from Pelly Crossing to Stewart Crossing
Wildfire smoke has temporarily made the Klondike Highway impassable from Pelly Crossing to Stewart Crossing, as of July 4, 2022. (Yukon Protective Services/Facebook)

The last week has seen 136 new fires as a result of more than 21,000 lightning strikes in the Yukon, according to Mike Fancie, the Yukon’s fire information officer.

Fancie said that means 97 per cent of fires in territory are caused by lightning, “which is a pretty staggering statistic.”

“There is major wildfire activity that is on our radar in every fire management district of the territory,” he said.

He said Wildland Fire is keeping a close eye on fires impacting certain communities, such as Beaver Creek where fire is burning in the vicinity of the community.

Highway 2 remains closed between Pelly Crossing and Stewart Crossing as of July 6, according to communications manager Krysten Johnson of the Yukon’s department of Highways and Public Works.

No timeline for reopening is available, although the closure is temporary.

“Only essential travel is recommended,” Johnson said.

“While there is a pilot car available, it is only allowing traffic through intermittently, and when it is safe to do so. Travellers can expect very long delays.”

In total, the Yukon has seen 174 fires with 62,335 hectares burned this year.

A rapidly growing fire near the Klondike Highway and another bunch of fires north of Ethel Lake are potentially endangering people in those areas, as smoke blankets the northern and central parts of the territory.

Fire danger in the area of central Yukon has prompted an evacuation alert for Mayo, Keno, the Victoria Gold Mine, Moose Creek Lodge and Elsa. The alert was issued July 5.

Another evacuation alert was issued on July 3 by the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization for Stewart Crossing and surrounding areas.

The alert includes a five-kilometre radius around Stewart Crossing, 12 kilometres southeast to Ethel Lake Road and east to include residences around Ethel Lake.

Both alerts could be escalated to an evacuation order if the fire directly threatens residents and visitors.

People living and visiting in the affected areas must be ready to leave within two hours of being notified.

Local residents and visitors are being asked to avoid visiting properties in the affected area and to proactively relocate before the fire becomes a direct problem.

A wildfire over the weekend has also prompted an emergency evacuation ordered July 2 for the Ethel Lake campground and surrounding area. An online update indicates Wildland Fire crews had been working with RCMP, department of Energy, Mines and Resources staff and volunteer firefighters to advise people and coordinate the evacuation.

Multiple highways closed

Yukon 511 has alerted the public about fires forcing road closures including the Klondike Highway, Robert Campbell Highway, Nahanni Range Road and McQuesten Road.

Thick smoke seen on the morning of July 4 from a helicopter impedes road visibility in the Yukon. (Courtesy/Yukon Wildland Fire)
Thick smoke seen on the morning of July 4 from a helicopter impedes road visibility in the Yukon. (Courtesy/Yukon Wildland Fire)

In an online update July 3, fire information officer Haley Ritchie of Wildland Fire said thick, intense smoke from the Crystal Creek fire, which is more than 1,500 hectares, is making the Klondike Highway impassable from Pelly Crossing to Stewart Crossing.

In Wildland Fire’s latest online update, the Klondike Highway remains closed as of 11 a.m. on July 4. A solution is being worked on to let limited movement of vehicles with assistance of pilot cars. No timeline for reopening is available, although the closure is temporary.

Protective Services has also posted several updates to social media and its website.

A forest fire on Highway 4 has shut down the road from kilometre zero to the 354 mark, according to Protective Services.

Nahanni Range Road north of Watson Lake has been closed due to a fire burning around kilometre 76 to 78. In a tweet, Protective Services said the Northern Tungsten mine is located far from the fire and is not being threatened.

A July 3 report on wildfires states the Yukon has been hit with 6,000 lightning strikes a day. More lightning-caused fires are expected in the area on July 4, according to the report.

As of the latest July 4 report, 93 active fires had been burning in the territory, with 21 new fires in the last 24 hours.

Wildland Fire said July 4 there are a number of concerning fires burning in the Silver Trail area, including around Mayo and Keno City.

Crews are working on the Frances lake fire, which has grown to 1,500 hectares.

The Snag Creek fire burning approximately 15 kilometres north of Beaver Creek is 900 hectares and Wildland Fire is setting up advanced sprinkler systems as a precaution to protect the community.

The 240-hectare Rancheria Mountain fire is burning six kilometres south of the Alaska Highway but is not currently moving towards the road.

A level two fire ban remains in place across the Yukon.

READ MORE: Yukon brings in burning ban

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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