Wildfire ‘under control’ after state of emergency declared
Fire forced evacuation from area of Bathurst Inlet late last week
A wildfire that started Wednesday and led to a state of emergency being declared by the Nunavut government is now considered to be “under control.”
Approximately 150 hectares of tundra in the Bathurst Inlet area of Nunavut were burning, which led to an evacuation of about 14 people to B2Gold’s marine laydown area about 24 kilometres south of there, Nunavut fire marshal John McDermott said on Monday.
The Bathurst Inlet area is only seasonally inhabited by hunters and campers, said Boyd Warner, who runs the Bathurst Inlet Lodge.
“They were gracious enough to host everyone until they were allowed to return,” Warner said of B2Gold.
In a statement, B2Gold spokesperson Cherry DeGeer said “the Goose Mine and Back River District are 190 kilometres from the wildfire area and were not affected.”
A Bell 407 helicopter under contract to B2Gold was released to be contracted to the Government of Nunavut to be used in its aerial firefighting efforts, DeGeer said.
The fire is now classified as being “under control,” meaning “there is little to no growth due to fire suppression from the air,” McDermott said.
He said he was unsure whether campers had been able to return to retrieve their belongings left behind during the evacuation.
He noted the Arctic is prone to many of the same issues as the rest of Canada when it comes to hot summer weather.
“Given the dryness that we’ve got reports of just on the tundra itself, it is a lot drier this year,” he said.
Warner agreed, saying, “the tundra is reportedly … so dry, it’s like walking on cornflakes — just crunch, crunch, crunch.”
Circumstances that led to a fire on the tundra aren’t that different than those that typically lead to forest fires in the south, said Terri Lang, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The three main ingredients for “fires are heat, ongoing heat, and a lack of precipitation,” she said.
Maps for the past 90 days indicate “it’s been above average with respect to temperature, and below average with respect [to] precipitation.”
Warner said, “I’ve been going to Bathurst since 1970. And that’s the first tundra fire I’ve seen within 200 miles of the area.
“I was talking with [our] Inuit partners and [none of them] have seen a fire up there.”