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Reid Lake fire growing
Cabin owner watching fire closely; blaze about 55 kilometres east of Yellowknife causing smoky conditions in city

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

There is only one forest fire in the entire NWT being fought right now but it is big and growing. By press time it was about 200 square kilometres - up from about 120 square kilometres last week.

The fire, about 55 kilometres east of Yellowknife, has cabin owners nervous and has created very smoky air in Yellowknife this week. The fire is burning about 55 kilometres east of Yellowknife near Reid Lake and is only about six kilometres from Reid Lake Territorial Park, according to Mike Gravel, territorial duty officer with the Department Environment and Natural Resources.

"At this time there are no cabins that are imminently threatened that I am aware of," Gravel said, adding it's up to property owners to prepare their cabins for fire.

"If they haven't taken measures to fire smart their property then they have reason to be concerned."

Yellowknife resident Rod Brown owns a cabin near Defeat Lake, about 60 kilometres east of the city.

He said he's been closely watching the fire for several weeks now because his cabin isn't far away. Two weeks ago, he said, he went out to the cabin to clear cut trees in the area. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources helped him to set up sprinklers at his property, Brown said.

"My dad, he's passed away now, but that's where he spent all his time so (there are) lots of good memories. We just want to go and do what we can do," said Brown.

There are six crews currently at the fire - 30 firefighters in total as well as three helicopters and one air tanker, said Gravel. The fire, which started over the last week of June, threatened Namushka Lodge on Harding Lake last month. It also came to within about a kilometre of Hearne Lake Lodge but the lake itself was between the lodge and the fire.

"We have advised cabin owners of the situation and put them on alert that should the situation change they may be required to leave on short notice," Gravel said. "There are lakes between the fire and the campground."

There are plans to do some burnout operations on the fire because it is simply too big to fight directly, Gravel said.

"We are looking at strategic locations to help minimize the spread," Gravel said. "I would hope that people would take it upon themselves to protect their property and minimize their risk of fire. But we want to know who is in the area. If somebody plans to go in there they should contact their regional duty officer so that they are aware that there are people in there and we know what their transportation means are."

The fire crews are currently camping at Reid Lake and the park remains open to campers, Gravel said. The park was placed on evacuation alert Tuesday, which means it could be evacuated at any moment.

There are other fires in the territory but none requiring direct action at the moment, Gravel said.

The department has sent some support personnel and one aircraft to Oregon to help with firefighting efforts there.

Yesterday, Environment Canada's air quality health index in the city was at 7 out of 10 in the morning which, means high risk. It had fallen to 2, which includes low risk by afternoon. Today, it is expected to be around 5 - or moderate risk.

- with files from Evan French

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