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Wood Buffalo Complex Wildfire Update - September 15, 2023

Friday, September 15, 2023

Wood Buffalo Complex Wildfire Information Update – September 15, 2023

(Previously Parks Canada Fire 7, Alberta Wildfire MNZ003, and NWT SS069)

Managed under unified command between Alberta Wildfire, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and Parks Canada from the incident command post in Fort Smith.

The Wood Buffalo Complex was last estimated at 485,686* hectares in size.

After a more detailed survey, the northern perimeter of the fire closest to communities where fire growth has been deemed intolerable has been mapped at 146 kilometres in length. Significant progress has been made on securing this section of the fire. 60 km of the northern fire perimeter is now considered controlled. A controlled fire perimeter is the portion of fire perimeter that has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread of fire.

71 km of the northern perimeter is considered contained. A contained fire perimeter is the portion of the fire perimeter that is not expected to spread given current resource commitments and forecasted weather and fire behavior conditions.

Together, 90 percent of the northern perimeter is now considered contained or controlled.

There are currently 229 personnel responding to the Wood Buffalo Complex, which includes 34 pieces of heavy equipment, 15 helicopters and 111 firefighters and structure protection firefighters. These numbers fluctuate as personnel leave the incident for much needed rest and new personnel and resources arrive.


Warm, dry and windy conditions are forecast to return to the Fort Smith area over the next three days, bringing with them a potential for increased fire activity.

Today’s high is expected to reach mid 20 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity of around 25 percent. Southwesterly winds are forecast to be 15 km/h. gusting to 35 km/h

Although we’re seeing cooler weather overnight, temperatures remain approximately 5 – 10 degrees Celsius higher than the seasonal average.

​What is being done:

Crews took advantage of yesterday’s cool, humid weather to make progress on extinguishing hotspots along the fire perimeter.

Firefighters are making good progress, but more time is needed before the communities surrounding Fort Smith will be ready for residents to return.

Thebacha: Crews patrolled the fire perimeter in this area and extinguished hot spots. As some residents return to their communities, it is imperative that members of the public avoid fire operations in the Connie’s Road and Foxholes Road area. Closures for both roads are being implemented and we ask that you please give our crews the space they need to work safely.

Fort Fitzgerald: Crews worked along the perimeter closest to Fort Fitzgerald to extinguish hotspots. Poor flying conditions meant that work was limited to areas accessible by ground. Work will continue to secure the perimeter south and west of the community.

Hwy 5: The fire perimeter along Highway 5 is now considered controlled, and crews are beginning to demobilize equipment. As members of the community return, please be aware of crews working along the road – please slow down and give them space to work as you pass. A speed reduction to 60 km/h will be implemented along Highway 5 between Salt River and Fort Smith to help ensure firefighters’ safety. The RCMP are assisting with increased speed enforcement to ensure crew safety.

Reclamation: Crews are beginning to reclaim and rehabilitate dozer guards that are no longer needed to protect homes and the community.

A reclamation specialist is making plans for the reclamation of dozer guards within Wood Buffalo National Park, beginning with the guard constructed along the Parson’s Lake Road.

​Infrared Scans: Heat-sensing scans continue to be completed nightly to help firefighters find and extinguish hot spots. Crews working areas throughout the fire have been reporting 2-3 feet deep hot spots. Putting out spots this deep requires significant time and effort. Hotspots must be excavated by hand or with heavy equipment and extinguished with bucket support from helicopters and lots of water from hoses.


Highway 5 is currently closed to the public from Hay River to Fort Smith due to safety concerns and limited visibility. Essential workers returning by vehicle will be allowed through the closure checkpoint as long as conditions are safe for travel. For more information on highway closures, visit

Pine Lake Road from Bordertown to Peace Point remains CLOSED due to fire behaviour and active fire operations in the area.


Following ongoing recommendations by Unified Command of the Wood Buffalo Complex, the town of Fort Smith remains under an evacuation ORDER. This ORDER has been issued for the safety of the public. For up-to-date information please visit the links below and follow the Protective Services Department and Town of Fort Smith on Facebook.

For updated wildfire conditions visit:




NWT Highway Conditions website:

Protective Services Facebook page: Protective Services

REMEMBER: There is still a COMPLETE FIRE BAN for the Municipality of Fort Smith and Wood Buffalo National Park. Propane appliances are allowed. Use extreme caution and keep all heat sources clear of combustible materials.

 Continue to monitor this page, the Town website, and fire status websites for your region to receive the most accurate and up-to-date information.

News Type: 
General News