Big fires cool down

Helicopter dropping water on back burn along the Hay River near Enterprise File photo July 18, 2015 Enterprise Photo by Paul Bickford Northern News Services Ltd.

Helicopter dropping water on back burn along the Hay River near Enterprise
File photo
July 18, 2015
Photo by Paul Bickford
Northern News Services Ltd.

A large forest fire on the east side of the Hay River – near Paradise Valley and Enterprise – is not expected to cause any problems for the rest of the season.

“The areas that are still smouldering, if we get a little bit of wind and it gets a little hotter, it will show a little bit of smoke, but there again it’s well inside the fire perimeter,” said Daniel Allaire, the regional manager of forests with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Fort Smith.

The fire – which the department calls SS037 or the Paradise Complex – has been relatively quiet for a few weeks.

The 338 square-kilometre fire was started by lightning on June 26 to become the largest fire in the South Slave this summer.

But he said the worst is over.

“It’s just being monitored now,” said Allaire. “We have a tower nearby and the tower is keeping an eye on it.”

The fire never jumped across the Hay River at any time, he said.

“The river offered us a good control line.”

However, there were some tense times, particular in Paradise Valley.

Mayor Andrew Cassidy, who lives in the area, recalled a voluntary evacuation in late June.

“Quite a few residents from Paradise actually did leave. Basically, one evening the fire kind of blew up, I guess is the term they use,” he said, adding that the wind shifted and picked up and the fire started roaring towards Paradise Valley and Patterson Road.

Cassidy said the situation at that time was pretty intense, as it was on Canada Day during a back burn along the eastern side of the river from Enterprise to just north of Paradise Valley.

“There was a lot of concern there as well because, although the conditions were right for the back burn, it’s still unnerving when they’re creating a forest fire right at your doorstep,” he said. “So a lot of people were pretty upset about that as well, pretty concerned.”

Allaire said the back burn was done because the fire was “taking a run” to the river and it was to prevent it from jumping across.

“If that fire would have jumped across the river and burned on the west side, that could have been very, very serious,” he added, saying that would have placed many values at risk from Enterprise to Hay River. “Our main objective was to keep the fire from the west side of the river.”

Cassidy said things have calmed down since then, very much to the relief of residents.

“We haven’t seen any smoke or any active flames,” he noted. “We haven’t had water bombers in quite some time now.”

In the meantime, Allaire said the department is observing the fire.

A helicopter also recently flew over the fire to take a look.

“So we’re just keeping an eye on it right now just to make sure that there’s nothing that’s going to cause some problem, but so far everything is looking good,” said Allaire. “Of course, it’s going to be smouldering probably even until there’s snow on the ground in some of the area.”

At the peak of the battle against the fire, Allaire – who was an incident commander on the fire for eight days in mid-July – noted there were close to 60 firefighters from the NWT and Ontario.

“It’s not out,” said Allaire. “The fire is basically contained. It hasn’t grown for quite a while now. There are still some hotspots along the Hay River itself, especially just across from Enterprise, that still could be seen from time to time.”

However, he stressed those hotspots are well inside the burn area, and the perimeter is all contained.

Some of the hotspots have been created because the fire has burned deep into the root systems of large trees, which have basically fallen over and are smouldering away.

“Of course, the fire will smoulder for a while yet, but it’s well inside the fire perimeter,” Allaire said last week.

Allaire does not expect any problems even if forecasted warmer temperatures arrive.

The fire camp was demobilized on July 22.