Yukon fire officials voiced hope on Monday that a shift in weather conditions may benefit those battling a blaze that is inching towards the Village of Mayo and forced the evacuation of the community the day before.
Yukon fire information officer Haley Ritchie said the Talbot Creek wildfire is about four kilometres outside the small village and remains out of control, and aerial firefighting efforts are focused on managing the blaze and keeping it away from the town.
The fire, officials said, has grown to about 40 square kilometres, and crews from Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia are poised to assist with fighting the blaze that spurred the village’s evacuation.
Ritchie, speaking at a Monday morning press conference, said tankers and helicopters dropped water and fire retardants to slow the blaze’s growth, while wildland fire management crews are preparing for controlled burns if conditions allow for them.
Ritchie said more than 40 personnel have been assigned to the Talbot Creek blaze, along with six air tankers and four helicopters.
She said officials are anticipating a shift in the weather on Monday, with favourable winds and cooler nighttime temperatures hopefully reducing the fire’s spread.
Officials in Whitehorse are currently assisting evacuees with accommodations, and more than 120 people have registered for assistance so far.
“We expect many more,” Minister of Health and Social Services Tracy-Anne McPhee said Monday.
McPhee said they’re encouraging people affected by the evacuation to register by phone or in-person at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse to accurately assess the number of people in need.
Elsewhere in the territory, smoky conditions have made visibility poor and fire assessment work difficult for aircraft, Ritchie said.
In the northern community of Old Crow, Ritchie said a number of fires are under close watch as residents deal with the irritations of fire smoke in the air.
“Old Crow is not under immediate threat from the fire as much as smoke is a serious concern and it’s really causing people stress and health effects, so we’re paying attention to that,” she said. “But all these fires are being carefully monitored, especially the ones close to town, but also important cultural sites. We’re not just focused on the town site.”
There are 126 active wildfires across Yukon, but Ritchie expressed gratitude to local and out-of-province crews helping with the response.
“While this number of fires has put a strain on our resources, we’re collaborating with partners and we’re importing additional resources from outside the territory,” she said. “We’re profoundly grateful for this assistance and these personnel will be invaluable assets in our firefighting efforts throughout the territory, in Mayo, and beyond.”
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