‘It’s just a scary situation’: Yukoners react to evacuation alert as fires continue to burn

As fires continue to burn across the Yukon, some residents in affected areas are preparing to leave as soon as possible if ordered to, but not all.

Norma Meese, 76, lives with her husband near Stewart River, about eight miles from Mayo.

She said there was so much smoke, “we can’t even see across the river now.”

Mayo is one of several communities for which the territorial government has issued evacuation alerts as 161 fires, as of Friday, were burning in the Yukon. Other communities include Elsa, Keno, Moose Lodge Creek, Victoria Gold Mine, and Stewart Crossing and surrounding areas.

If an evacuation order is issued, the government has said residents should be ready to leave within two hours of notification.

But Meese said if that happened, she and her husband would not leave their house.

“We told the [government officials] that we’re not going anywhere because there’s no place to go,” she said. “They don’t tell you where to go or they have no idea where to go.

The North Klondike Highway from Stewart Crossing to Pelly Crossing, which is south of Mayo, has been closed due to “unpredictable and dangerous fire behavior” since Friday evening, according to the Yukon government.

“The only other way is to Dawson City,” Meese said. “And there is nothing there. Where are you supposed to go?

“The situation is a bit hairy”

Meanwhile, Carole Kroening, who with her husband owns and operates Stepping Stone, a Yukon Quest hospitality stop near Fort Selkirk where the Yukon and Pelly rivers meet, said they’re ready to go. any time.

“We all have a take-out bag waiting on the foredeck and we can be in the boats in five minutes,” she said.

Fires are burning about 15 minutes from Stepping Stone, a Yukon Quest drop-in stop near Fort Selkirk. (Submitted by Carole Kroening)

Kroening added that the fire started on Monday and was slowly moving towards them.

“The situation is a bit hairy,” she said.

“If we were to hike in the afternoon, it would take us about 15 minutes to get there [to the fire]. »

Its just a scary situation Yukoners react to evacuation alert
Fires burn on the Pelly River from Stepping Stone, a Yukon Quest drop-in stop near Fort Selkirk, Yukon. (Submitted by Carole Kroening)

She said on Tuesday wildfire officials gave her advice on how to intelligently burn down her property as well as other buildings in the community.

She had as many sprinklers installed as she could.

She said that in 2006 there was a forest fire that stopped about a kilometer from the community, but this one is scarier because “you can see it so well”.

“It’s just a scary situation”

Just outside Stewart Crossing, Elizabeth Blair is also ready to go straight away if needed.

“We have a van there that’s full of stuff if we all of a sudden have to leave,” she said.

“It’s just a scary situation because you can’t predict anything with fire. If we have a big wind, it might just head in that direction. »

She said she had installed a water pump and a well with a long pipe, but on Thursday she also wanted to install a sprinkler system.

A fire burns near a lake.
The Frances Lake Fire is burning along Robert Campbell Road, which is closed between Watson Lake and Ross River. (Government of Yukon)

She made calls but said no one seemed to be able to help her, so she posted a message on Facebook asking for help.

“And in an hour, the [wildland fire] group from British Columbia was here and was able to settle down with what they had left. So we just had to install a few sprinklers,” she said.

Blair is very grateful for the help.

She said she expects the current fire situation in the Yukon to be the new normal and hopes territorial government and First Nations officials will be more organized in the future than they appear to be. This year.

“Hopefully there will be a whole set of, you know, just instructions where a person could call someone…who knows what to do to evacuate or whatever,” she said.

” They are worried “

Mayo-Tatchun MP Jeremy Harper, who grew up in Pelly Crossing, visited the community last week to help relay information to his constituents.

He said he got a lot of calls from them.

“They are worried,” he said.

“The fire is close to their residences and we want to make sure they have adequate sprinklers or a crew to come and help put out a fire around their home to make sure their property or trapline or cabin hunting is protected,” he said.

He added that the community has ‘sufficient’ supplies now that the 100-person BC crew helping to fight wildfires in the territory have set up camp at the Pelly Crossing airport. .

He said the BC team will be sent to different locations to install sprinkler systems or curbs around certain properties.

Harper said he is staying in touch with First Nations elders and leaders to make sure they have all the information they need from emergency officials.

“Our leadership is passing on a lot of good information to the citizens so that they are always updated,” he said.

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