Tuesday June 2 2015 3 ENVIRONMENT WILDFIRES By MEAGAN WOHLBERG The bit of rain experienced earlier this week is unlikely to make a difference in determin- ing the forecast for this summers weather which will once again see severe drought conditions and likely intense wildland fires across a hot NWT according to officials with the department of Environment and Natural Resources ENR. I do not wish to be the bearer of bad weather reports but as Mother Nature may have it and based on the reports from our meteorologist we will once again experience drought over the summer of 2015 ENR Min- ister Michael Miltenberger announced Mon- day in legislature. The prediction for this fire season is for another year of hot dry weather. The down- turn in weather for the next two days is un- likely to make much difference. It will be get- ting warmer and drier in all regions starting on Wednesday. As of Monday afternoon there had been 51 fires to date in the NWT consisting of more than 69000 hectares burned well beyond last years totals at this time. In comparison to the 20-year average of seven fires at this time of year and a little over 5000 hectares burned thats about seven times the number of fires said manager of fire operations Rick Olsen. Of this years fires six were holdovers from last year seven were person-caused and 38 were of natural causes the major- ity by lightning and one a coal seam fire near Tulita. Miltenberger said those trends are likely to prevail through August over at least portions of the Dehcho North Slave and South Slave. These conditions will likely result in ex- treme fire behaviour and intense wildland fires which can be difficult for crews to ex- tinguish he said. Crews working on two fires Fire crews were busy actioning two fires as of Monday one of which is located 50 km south of Behchoko near Highway 3. Last Friday crews completed a successful burn- out operation along the highway closing the roadway for the day but hopefully prevent- ing the flames from compromising the only road to and from Yellowknife. Crews are now following up with some direct action mop- ping up hot spots along the southern por- tion of that fire. Weexpectwellbeonthatforanotherthree or four days before we can walk away and just monitor it until its out Olsen said. The other fire being actioned is along High- way1betweenKakisaandFortSimpsonaround 75 km east of Jean Marie River. Its no threat to any community but it is in an area with large fire growth potential that under the conditions were experienc- ing at this time of the year were limiting the fire growth on that one Olsen said adding that crews would likely be there for another three or four days as well. Four other notable fires in the Dehcho are being monitored for possible values protec- tion as well as fire growth. Only one fire started in the South Slave over the weekend located 60 km north of Fort Simpson and 67 km southeast of Fort Resolution on the Taltson River system. That holdover fire from last year is out of control and also being monitored for possible value protection work. We have been being a little more vigilant in terms of our response to some of these fires just simply to maybe put a little work up front to prevent a lot of work at the end of it instead Olsen said. Were under the effects of a very long- term drought said Frank Lepine associate director of forest management. When you have the kind of drought we have right now fires will burn deep. What will normally take a crew a day or two to put out will take lon- ger than that. It may take two crews to put the same fire out and may take three or four days. Thats what happens when we have these droughts. We have an increased work- load for the crews on the ground and control is really difficult. Dry conditions to pick up mid-week Overall there are no communities at risk Olsen said noting the bit of wet weather and lowered temperatures have helped put a damper on some blazes low- ering fire danger indices across the south- ern half of the territory to the low or mod- erate levels. That moment of respite is expected to be short-lived however with dry winds remov- ing any moisture by mid-week. We expect the ridge we were under will build back up over the week and by Wednes- day or Thursday well start getting into sea- sonal and slightly above seasonal tempera- tures again especially in the southern re- gion Olsen said. As that occurs there are chances of some more rain but also lightning. Were looking at possible new fire starts toward the end of the week Olsen said. All of the territorys 28 Type 1 crews are currently active helped out by five long-term and four short-term helicopters and four air tanker groups. Those crews were readied two weeks earlier this year due to the quick start to the fire season. We are thinking that with the chance of lightning and new fresh starts coming this weekend we might bring on additional resources i.e. air tankers as needed Olsen added. Last weekend ENR made a point of giving its crews time off to avoid burnout this early in the season partly as a lesson learned from last years record fire season. Were really at the beginning of the fire season so we dont want to be overworking people unless we absolutely have to Olsen said. Theres a recognition from last year and previous years that individuals just like with any exercise or exertion become less and less effective. The more you give a person a chance to rest their mind and their body and allow them to recover and relieve the stress that comes with that po- sition the better theyll be able to perform the best they can without risking them- selves or others. Wildfires can be reported to ENR at 1-877-NWT-FIRE. Wet weather unlikely to dampen severe NWT drought Pace of fire season already seven times 20-year average ENR Mapnwtfire.com The NWT fire map as of June 1. Fifty-one fires and over 69000 hectares have burned in the NWT since the beginning of this fire season.