Forest fires have reeked havoc in the NWT with the worst fire season in 30 years.
About 150 fires were burning at the peak, most out of control. In the territories only a small percentage of the land area is ‘protected’ ie. where authorities try to control the fires. At least 13 fires were caused by people. In total over 300,000 ha of forest have burned, about 6 times the amount of a normal season.
On average, about 9 100 forest fires occur annually in Canada. Of these, over 60% are started by people, most by accident, and 35% by lightning. Being generally less accessible, fires started by lightning are about 10 times as large as human-caused fires. The mean annual national burned area is 2.5 million ha, and 85% of it is accounted for by lightning fires. This total equals about 0.6% of Canada’s forested area. Half of all recorded fires fail to reach 0.01 ha in size but occasional fires exceed 100 000 ha. In fact, 2% of fires account for 98% of total burned area. The number of fires is fairly steady from year to year, but annual burned area varies greatly. Since 1970, the smallest annual total has been 289 000 ha (1978) and the largest 7 560 000 ha (1989), a range of 25-fold. The boreal forest sustains the bulk of the burned area, most of which is thus not seen by the average citizen. About $300 million is spent annually across Canada in dealing with forest fires.
The NWT fire situation seems to be improving due to the valiant efforts of the fire fighting crews and by community residents.