SPECIAL WILDFIRE BULLETIN: Statement on Home Lost in Sambaa K’e During Ignition Operation

News Type: 
Special Wildfire Bulletin

YELLOWKNIFE (June 5, 2023; 12:45am) – The following statement was issued by Mike Westwick, Wildfire Information Officer, Environment and Climate Change:

“Tonight, a home was lost in the community of Sambaa K’e during an ignition operation.

“This is first and foremost a tragedy for a family. Our government will immediately begin work with the family that has lost their home to get them the help they need.

“We’re in the business of protecting people and property in the wildfire program, and it is deeply upsetting when things go wrong. 

“Our hearts go out to the homeowner and the community. Our team in Sambaa K’e will continue to work tirelessly and do everything they can to protect the community.”

How it happened

“The home was lost during an ignition operation undertaken between the airstrip and the lake.

“The intention was  to create a break in fuel between the community and the wildfire. This fire has been growing fast and could reach Sambaa K’e on Monday if burning conditions continue.  

“There were no control areas between the community and the fire, so the plan was to burn off and remove available fuels using fire breaks.   

“A test fire was created on Friday.  The test fire flared up today, despite efforts to extinguish it   and crossed the airstrip towards the lake.  

“Containment of the test fire has been challenging as aircraft have not been able to fly because of low visibility due to smoke.

“An additional ignition operation was required today to remove fuels between the airstrip and community.

“Conditions were right at the time it was initiated. However, after ignition, an unexpected thunderstorm moved through. With it came strong downdrafts which quickly switched the wind direction nearly 180 degrees.

“This pushed the fire past the established control line near the start of the airstrip. Before it could be contained it came close enough to the community to burn a home.

“This happened in a matter of minutes.”

What we will do to protect the community

“Conditions in and around the community are extremely challenging. Visibility and heavy smoke have meant no additional support has been able to make it to the community for days because aircraft have not been able to fly.

“Nonetheless, our team will continue to work hard to protect the community.

“Structure protection is established for the majority of the community of Sambaa K’e and cabins at Island Lake. These are usually effective measures which have protected structures through many wildfires in the NWT.”

For media requests, please contact:

Wildfire Information Officer