Yukon issues travel advisory as wildfires, floods stretch already scant resources

Yukon residents and visitors are being asked to “seriously consider” their travel plans in the midst of wildfire and flood related road closures as well as evacuation alerts. 

The territorial government issued a Yukon-wide travel advisory Friday, stating that wildfires and flooding, along with widespread telecommunications interruptions and poor air quality, have challenged the territory. 

Appearing on CBC’s Midday Cafe, Richard Mostyn, territorial minister of Community Services, said “the message is for everyone to take a bit of personal responsibility this summer.”

He asked that Yukoners “take a good hard look at their travel plans,” and if they’re not necessary, don’t travel. 

With over 160 active wildfires — more than Yukon has had over entire past wildfire seasons — Mostyn said this could be one of the territory’s worst wildfire seasons. 

“The situation in the territory right now is extreme,” he told host Leonard Linklater, listing fires active in central Yukon, in Watson Lake, Dawson and near Beaver Creek.

Most years, he said Yukon has about 100 firefighters on the ground.

This year, with support from other parts of the country, it’s close to 300 firefighters and resources are still being stretched. 

Several stretches of Yukon roads are closed due to wildfires. Including parts of the Klondike Highway, part of Robert Campbell Highway and Nahanni Range Road. (511 Yukon)

If residents do travel, the government is asking they be prepared for an emergency situation and understand that the situation could change quickly. 

The travel advisory recommends always having  water, food, cash, extra gas and other emergency supplies in order to be self-sufficient and not have to pull from emergency resources.

“Make sure you can look after yourself if you get, perhaps, stranded because of an event on the highway,” Mostyn said. 

“There’s a lot going on right now and our resources are really maxed out. So we’re asking people to please help our Wildland Fire people, our emergency response folks.”

With over 160 active wildfires – more than Yukon had over entire wildfire seasons – Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said this could be one of the territory’s worst wildfire seasons Yukon has had.  (Yukon Wildfire Information)

He said that tourists would still be coming in from out of the territory but advised that they watch for updates on road conditions and closures and “perhaps alter plans to where it’s a little bit safer and where there’s less crises going on.” 

Updates on evacuation alerts, flood warnings and air quality advisories can be found at Yukon.ca/emergencies

Changes to road conditions will appear on Yukon511.ca

For current wildfire information, go to Yukon.ca/get-wildfire-updates or call 867-393-7415.

With recent internet outages causing communication disruptions, Mostyn said when there is an emergency alert in effect, the department has people going door to door in communities “to make sure people are informed” and “know what will happen if an evacuation alert is issued.”

“These are really really extraordinary times in the territory,” he said. 

With 210 total fires in the territory this year, the emergency measures organization is reminding residents about the risk of poor air quality.

“When there is heavy smoke, all people are at risk regardless of their age or health status,” the advisory states. 

“Whether you are in a community or travelling on the land, you need to understand how poor air quality due to wildfire smoke can affect your health.”

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By Jon Doe