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Wood Buffalo Complex Wildfire Update - September 17, 2023

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Wood Buffalo Complex Wildfire Information Update – September 17, 2023

NOTE: If you require a flight back to Fort Smith and have not heard from MACA you can email the GNWT directly at

All flights to Fort Smith leave tomorrow September 18, 2023 so reach out ASAP!


The Wood Buffalo Complex was last estimated at 488,300 hectares in size.

The northern perimeter of the fire closest to communities where fire growth has been deemed intolerable is mapped at 146 kilometres in length. 78km of this fire perimeter is now considered controlled, and 39km is considered contained. A controlled fire perimeter is the portion of fire perimeter that has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread of fire. 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, 92 percent of the northern perimeter is now considered contained or controlled.

There are currently 269 personnel responding to the Wood Buffalo Complex, which includes 30 pieces of heavy equipment, 14 helicopters and 139 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 continue today, bringing with them potential for increased fire activity.

Today’s high is forecast to be 25 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity of around 25 percent. South winds are forecast to be 10 km/h, gusting to 30 km/h

A modest cooling trend is in the forecast for mid week, with warmer temperatures returning by the weekend. Daily highs remain approximately 9 degrees Celsius higher than the seasonal average.

What is being done:

Crews observed increased fire activity yesterday and a new dozer guard was put in place to help contain the new fire perimeter along Foxholes Road. Work is continuing to extinguish hot spots along the fire perimeter and reinforce control lines. Firefighters will be looking for ignition opportunities to secure the northern fire perimeter closest to Thebacha to the river.

Thebacha: Crews patrolled the fire perimeter in this area and extinguished hot spots. Active firefighting operations are ongoing in the Connie’s Road and Foxholes Road area. Structure protection remains in place along the Thebacha Road. Closures for all three roads are being implemented and we ask that you please give our crews the space they need to work safely.

Fort Fitzgerald: Firefighters worked to suppress active fire south of Fort Fitzgerald. Helicopters were able to assist with suppression via bucketing and deployment to more remote areas of the fire line. Crews and heavy equipment will begin working east from the Hay Camp Road along the dozer guard to extinguish hotspots in this area. The fire has burned deeply into the ground here and this work is anticipated to take some time.

Fort Smith: As members of the community return, we understand that people are curious about wildfire operations however to ensure the safety of our crews and the public, it is imperative to respect all fire-related closures.

Hwy 5: The fire perimeter along Highway 5 is now considered controlled and crews are demobilizing equipment. Highway 5 will reopen to the public as of 6 a.m. Monday to align with the lifting of the Town of Fort Smith’s evacuation order. A speed reduction to 50 km/h is in place where crews are present in order ensure firefighters’ safety. Please be mindful of crews who continue to work along the road – slow down and give them space to work as you pass. The RCMP are assisting with increased speed enforcement to ensure crew safety.

​Reclamation: Crews have begun to reclaim and rehabilitate dozer guards that are no longer needed to protect homes and the community, starting with the guard constructed along the Parson’s Lake Road.

Infrared Scans: Heat-sensing scans continue to be completed on a regular basis to help firefighters find and extinguish hot spots. Crews working areas throughout the fire continue to observe 2-3 feet deep hot spots. Putting out spots this deep requires excavation by hand or with heavy equipment and extinguished with bucket support from helicopters and lots of water from hoses.


Pine Lake Road from Bordertown to Peace Point has reopened with a speed reduction due to potential for unmarked hazards, possible debris on the road and crews working. The road may close without notice due to smoke or fire conditions anyone travelling the road should be prepared for delays.

Pine Lake Day Use Area remains closed

Connie’s Road, Foxholes Road and Thebacha Road remain closed due to active wildfire operations.

Hay Camp Road remains closed


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