Old fire line upgraded

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo An old fire line just west of the industrial area has been re-cut and straightened.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
An old fire line just west of the industrial area has been re-cut and straightened.

Hay River is now a bit more protected from wildfire.

That’s thanks to a project over the past couple of weeks to re-cut and straighten an old fire line that had grown over.

The upgraded line runs about 3.5 kilometres from the ballpark on the ILS Road all the way to the clearing for the new Hay River Regional Health Centre.

That places the line just to the north and west of the industrial area.

It is now about a 25-foot-wide line of defence should a wildfire approach Hay River from the west.

“It gives us a point where we can backfire it so it doesn’t come in on the town,” said Fire Chief Ross Potter.

It was part of an old fire line that actually stretches about 10 kilometres to the south just past the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 5.

The section that was upgraded was grown in, just like the rest of the line, and it was crooked, which would have made it difficult to start a back burn.

“It was actually in pretty rough shape,” said Potter.

“It makes it really difficult to do a backfire from bends,” he added. “So the whole purpose is to run this line from the ballpark to the hospital in more of a straight line or an arc so it gives us a better ability to burn back into those areas.”

The older line generally straightens out as it nears the railway tracks, noted the fire chief. “It’s grown in. It still would help a little bit, but you can’t do back burns from there.”

The upgrading of the fire line was done by Carter Industries, under contract with the town.

Potter said the clearing was done with a mulching machine, which he described as a big drum type of thing that chews up anything in its way, including a lot of spruce and pine trees.

The project was done in the winter because of muskeg in the area.

“We had to wait to do it until the ground froze. So it’s pretty much done now,” said Potter on Feb. 3.

The upgrading of the fire line was done with $17,500 provided to the town by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Potter said the town is now safer because of the project.

“Any efforts we make for Fire Smarting the community is good for the community,” he said. “We don’t want to end up like Slave Lake or Fort McMurray if we can avoid it. We’re trying to be progressive, rather than reactive.”

There are no plans to re-cut the remainder of the old fire line out to the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 5.

Potter noted that section of the old line is overgrown with deciduous trees, which are not conducive to the spread of wildfires.

–Paul Bickford