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Yukon expects return to ‘normal’ wildfire season after busy 2023: officials

Damp ground and a significant snowpack expected to hurt chances of a repeat of last year
A column of wildfire smoke is seen from the Midnight Dome fire lookout tower near Dawson City on Aug. 2, 2022. (Submitted/Government of Yukon)

Yukon government officials are expecting a much more conventional wildfire season this year after dealing with hundreds of fires in 2023.

Yukon Wildland Fire Management’s chief meteorologist Michael Smith said that damp ground and a significant snowpack mean a return to a more “normal” season where the territory sees around 100 fires, burning mostly in remote wilderness.

Smith said the forecast is helped in part because the grass and trees in the northern and southern ends of the territory are not as dry as they have been.

“(The forecast) does tell us there are no real red flags out there for getting into a situation like we were last July, August, after several weeks of really hot and dry (weather) and no rain,” Smith said at a news conference Thursday.

“That’s not what we’re seeing right now. So, the best we can really say is it should be a fairly normal season, getting into at least mid- (to) late- July, which we haven’t seen in a while.”

Last year, 207 Yukon wildfires burned more than 2,200 square kilometres, while some fires set off evacuations in the communities of Old Crow and Mayo, as well as at the Victoria Gold mine.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn told the news conference that the spring saw above-average snowpack in the Klondike and Porcupine river basins.

Smith said fires that have burned so far this year are not burning deep into the ground and can be put out in days, with the help of rain, rather than taking months to extinguish.

The government’s online wildfire map listed nine active wildfires in the territory as of Thursday afternoon.

Yukon’s predictions came a day after a national wildfire forecast warned that hot, dry weather in parts of Canada will make conditions ripe for an above average fire season across much of the west and Northwest Territories.

Mostyn said Yukon firefighters are prepared to be called in to help if needed.

“If we can spare the resources to help our neighbours and other places within the country, or even in the continent, we have done so in the past and we continue to do that,” he said.

“We have agreements with our partners across the continent, including certainly in Canada, to share resources when we’re able to do so.”

Yukon fire personnel have already helped this year on fires in Fort Liard, N.W.T., and Fort Nelson, B.C.

READ ALSO: Wildfire evacuation order ends for north Yukon fly-in community of Old Crow