Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that this year’s wildland fire season is off to a slow start compared to the previous two years.
As of May 30th, there have only been two wildland fires reported in the Northwest Territories.
All indications are the eight-hectare fire near Madeline Lake, along the Ingraham Trail, was a holdover from last fire season, which smouldered underground all winter. It is a strong indication of just how dry forests are in North Slave Region.
The second fire, 16 kilometers from Kakisa, was person-caused. It was started by an abandoned campfire.
We are still in a drought situation in many parts of the Northwest Territories and the long term seasonal forecast for the next three months calls for above normal temperatures and near normal precipitation.
Mr. Speaker, the 20-year average for fires and area burned for this time of year is three fires and 46 hectares burned. At this time, last year 31 wildland fires have been reported with just over 7,100 hectares burned.
Even with only two wildland fires to date, there is potential for another bad fire season this year. While lightning accounts for 90 per cent of fire starts in the Northwest Territories, the ten percent caused by people can be prevented.
Everyone has a responsibility to prevent and protect their homes, cabins and communities from wildland fire.
People must be careful when using fire in these dry conditions. Only use campfires if they are necessary for cooking and warmth. Bonfires are not required for these purposes. Get the appropriate burn permit for any other fires such as burning grass and/or brush. Do not leave any fire unattended and make sure the fire is completely out before leaving it.
Property owners and communities should use FireSmart tools to reduce their risk of loss from wildland fires.
Our 35 four-person fire-fighting crews are on strength as are our air tanker groups and rotary-wing aircraft.
The Department will assess any new wildland fire starts for potential risk to values and take measures as appropriate with resource capacity and expected fire risk in high value areas.
Mr. Speaker, the cooler weather conditions early in the season have allowed our Government to provide much needed fire personnel to help with the Fort McMurray fire and other fires in the northern part of Alberta.
To date, we have exported two 21-person wildland fire crews and agencies representatives, two radio operators, three supply unit leaders, one situation unit leader, one section chief trainee and one logistics chief trainee to Alberta.
Our Electra air tanker, a bird dog aircraft, air attack officer and crews saw duty in Alberta. The Northwest Territories also provided 55 water pumps and 700 lengths of fire hose to Fort McMurray.
We are honoured to be able to provide assistance to other Canadian jurisdictions as many of them have helped us in our time of need during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 wildland fire seasons.
Mr. Speaker, this year, Environment and Natural Resources has begun the process to update community wildland fire protection plans, and is drafting proposed amendments to modernize forest protection legislation, one of the commitments made in the Government of the Northwest Territories Mandate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.