Wildfire blazes near Yukon’s sole fibre optic line

Despite a fire burning a mere 3.5 kilometres from the only fibre-optic cable linking the Yukon to Outside, the risk of losing Internet and cell service are low, officials said Wednesday.

Despite a fire burning a mere 3.5 kilometres from the only fibre-optic cable linking the Yukon to Outside, the risk of losing Internet and cell service are low, officials said Wednesday.

Around noon, Northwestel issued a news release warning that the fire posed a “potential imminent threat” to the territory’s fibre-optic connection. But a short time later the company scaled back the likelihood of such a disruption to being “unlikely.”

Thirty firefighters and five helicopters are currently battling this fire, Wildland Fire Management spokesperson George Maratos said at a news conference jointly held with Northwestel in the afternoon.

“We’ve had resources on this fire from the initial start,” he said.

Wind is pushing the fire away from the Alaska Highway and the fibre optic line.

Firefighters are working on putting sprinklers on cabins near the fire and are digging fire guards.

Rainy conditions are expected overnight, which should ease the fire conditions, said Maratos.

“I want to reinforce for Yukoners that this information is provided at this time only as a precaution and further information will be provided should the situation change,” said Andrew Anderson, Northwestel’s communications director, during the press conference.

If Yukon’s fibre-optic cable was severed, landline phone services would still continue to work, Anderson said.

An even bigger concern for firefighters is that the smoke created by the fire could impact several roadways, including the Alaska Highway.

While the fibre-optic cable is mostly buried underground, it runs along the surface in areas where workers couldn’t plow through, for example in rivers and creeks.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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