With Whitehorse’s fire danger rating set to extreme amid “hot and dry” weather, a fire information officer said grass fires like the one that took place near a school in the city are “more hazardous than in other contexts.”
Mike Fancie of Yukon Wildland Fire said his crews were dispatched on the afternoon of June 2 alongside the Whitehorse Fire Department to reports of smoke nearby Porter Creek Secondary School.
Whitehorse fire chief Jason Everitt said a report came in around 3 p.m. about several fires lit in the brush area behind the school.
“Based upon the extreme fire conditions we are experiencing in Whitehorse, any wildland fire has the potential to become very large, very quick and very destructive,” Everitt said.
Upon arrival, firefighters found a fire in the grass that was approximately 0.01 hectares, or 20 feet by 40 feet, in size.
Fancie said crews quickly controlled the fire.
“In situations like this one where it’s not a civic address, and the indices are as high as they are, our policy is to work with the fire department to get out to the scene and then assess the situation as best, as quickly, as we can,” he said.
Both departments have reason to believe it was a human-caused fire, given the lack of natural triggers at the time. Fancie said most fires in the Yukon are struck up by lightning.
At the time of interviews, neither knew exactly what type of human activity may have sparked the fire.
Everitt said he believes it was intentionally set.
“There was no natural reason for those fires to be burning where they were,” he said.
“It was very irresponsible, reckless and dangerous.”
Everitt is reminding the public to quickly report smoke when they see it so fires do not get out of control.
“Don’t assume that we do know about it, or that somebody has also reported it. Take that initiative,” he said.
The fire danger for Dawson City is also pegged at exteme.
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