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Fort Good Hope out of immediate wildfire danger
Large blaze remains about 18 kilometres from community

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, July 17, 2017

As a major forest fire crept to within 20 kilometres of their community late last week, residents of Fort Good Hope were concerned, but not panicking.

NNSL photograph

This photo, taken on July 7, shows a huge forest fire burning east of Fort Good Hope in the Sahtu region. The fire, which was started by lightning on June 3 was about 18-20 kilometres from the community. - photo courtesy of Department of Environment and Natural Resources

That is according to Danny McNeely, MLA for the Sahtu which includes Fort Good Hope, a community of about 550 residents on the banks of the Mackenzie River, about 150 kilometres north of Norman Wells.

As of press time, the fire, - which began June 3 with a lightning strike - continued to burn about 18 to 20 kilometres due east of the community. It became more active on July 6 due to high winds had grown to about 140 square kilometres in size as of July 14.

The fire had stabilized and was not growing or moving towards the community. That is according to fire information officer Frank McKay with the territorial government's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR).

In a phone interview July 14, McKay said an incident command team is based in Fort Good Hope. He added that four helicopters are in the community and two air tankers (water bombers) are on standby in Norman Wells. He said eight crews of four firefighters each, are in the community helping with fire smarting activities.

They include pruning and thinning vegetation in specific areas as well as widening and cleaning up existing fireguards and establishing new ones. McKay said a back burn operation, essentially cutting a wide swath into the trees to impede the fire's progress, will be done once wind conditions are right.

He added it will be cut along an existing winter road about five kilometres east of the community,

McNeely, who was in Fort Good Hope from July 8 to 11, said conditions have improved.

"Since we had an all night rain storm Tuesday that stretched into the day on Wednesday, the fire has died down significantly," McNeely said.

An air quality advisory for the community, issued by Environment Canada had been lifted.

McNeely said that personnel from both ENR and the Dept. of Municipal and Community Affairs have been in the community.

"They are updating residents through the local radio station every two hours. They have public meetings every day."

Communication has been very positive, McNeely said.

McNeely said that if there is an evacuation order, people would be taken to Inuvik, Norman Wells or Yellowknife. There are only two ways out of the community right now - by boat on the Mackenzie River or by air.

Wilbert Cook, band manager at the senior administration officer for the community, said on July 14, that skies were clear and smoke was not causing a problem.

"The state of emergency remains in effect but just for precautionary reasons. There is a slight possibility smoke could become a problem again but it is not today," Cook said. "Everyone, including the elders are relaxed and happy. The elders did not want to be evacuated. Activities are planned and life continues.

The fire danger was medium in the Fort Good Hope and the rest of the Sahtu Region on July 14.

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