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Controlled burn results in large loss for woodcutter
Kerry Smith says he's out tens of thousands of dollars after backburn blazes out of control

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Monday, August 31, 2015

A woodcutter says he is not angry and is not blaming fire crews after he lost tens of thousands of dollars worth of firewood he had piled on his property on Highway 3.

Kerry Smith said it happened along the highway during a controlled back burn being conducted by firefighting crews from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR).

Smith sells firewood from his home on Highway 3 at Boundary Creek, about halfway between Yellowknife and Behchoko. His initial estimate of 300 cords of wood, valued at about $100,000, has been scaled back slightly after he visited his wood harvesting site last week.

"As far as I know they lit a back burn and it was dormant for a little bit and then the wind came up, took off and blew into our place and burnt a bunch of wood. It jumped across the highway and burned into my place" Smith said.

"We measured it out and it's well over 200 cords but not quite 300."

Wood said his was relieved that nothing else in the area burned. That included a man who works for him and the cabin he lives in.

"He was having a nap and the fire came up over top of the hill and he woke up and got scared and couldn't get out the main road but he went out through the back roads," Smith said.

"The dogs woke him up. The dogs got scared and went in the cabin. He had left the cabin door open because it was warm outside. One dog jumped on the bed on top of him and he went out and saw the whole place rolling in fire. It startled him lots because he's not used to seeing things like that."

The fire crept to about a kilometre from the cabin but there is a gravel pit in between where the fire was and his cabin, so Smith said he didn't believe the fire posed any danger.

He said he has spoken with representatives from ENR but he is not optimistic that he'll be compensated for his loss.

"I don't think they have compensation for this sort of thing. It's pretty hard to insure a whole field full of trees lying on the ground," he said.

He does not blame the crews for what happened.

"I think they did a hell of a good job and have been doing a good job all summer," Smith said.

"Those guys should be commended for what they do. We had a fire in the same area in May and they saved my property then." Smith said the fire got out of control after winds started gusting at more than 50 km per hour.

He said he has not talked to a lawyer and does not anticipate filing a lawsuit.

Nancy Zimmerman, a spokesperson for ENR, stated in an e-mail to News/North that the report on this is currently being investigated.

"No further comments can be provided until the investigation is complete," she stated.

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