An out-of-control wildfire continues to threaten Fort Smith, N.W.T., but officials took a moment Saturday to assure community members that the frogs in the beloved frog ponds are "happily hopping about" despite extensive tree-thinning in the surrounding area.
The frog ponds were surrounded by large, old jack pine and tightly packed black spruce that acted like a "fire wick," pulling fires from the south into the dense forested areas of the community, Fort Smith Protective Services said on Facebook.
They said extensive thinning operations, as well as a dozer guard with sprinkler lines, were put in place by crews in order to mitigate that risk.
"I want to assure everyone that this does not mean the low-lying wetlands of the frog ponds have been destroyed," reads the post.
"After a walk into the ponds this morning, I found many frogs happily hopping about in what little wet vegetation is left after a dry summer — but they are still there to croak folks to sleep!"
The wildfire is approximately 3.4 kilometers from Fort Smith, according to a Parks Canada update issued Saturday. The post included a photo of a fire break cut through the forest near the town. (Wood Buffalo National Park, Parks Canada/Facebook)
In an update on Saturday, Parks Canada urged evacuated Fort Smithers to stay put.
"Do not return," wrote Parks Canada from its Wood Buffalo National Park Facebook account.
A forecasted wind change has officials expecting fire growth toward the southeast of the town.
The forecast for early next week calls for hot, dry temperatures and southerly winds, which continues to threaten the community.
The wildfire is approximately 3.4 kilometers from Fort Smith, according to Parks Canada.
Extensive thinning operations, as well as a dozer guard with sprinkler lines, were put in place by crews in Fort Smith in order to mitigate that risk. (Fort Smith Protective Services/Facebook )
Officials in Yellowknife are also keeping a close eye on the forecast.
N.W.T. fire information officer Mike Westwick said in an interview on CBC Radio that the "fire did not grow a huge amount yesterday."
"We're making good progress on reducing the threat to the capital," said Westwick.
More than 360 personnel including the Canadian Armed Forces, 17 helicopters, 4 air tanker groups, and heavy equipment are working the North Slave fire.
As of Saturday afternoon, the fire was still about 15 kilometers from the city, according to the territory.
Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty says there isn't yet a plan to bring people back to the city. “We’re still in the middle of actively fighting fires so very close to the edges of our community," said Alty in a Facebook video. (Rebecca Alty/Facebook)
Mayor Rebecca Alty asked Yellowknifers to be patient while officials work on a plan to get people home.
"We're still in the middle of actively fighting fires so very close to the edges of our community which means that we do not have a firm timeline to get you back home yet," said Alty.
"We do not have a firm timeline to get you back home yet."
Alty stressed that when it's time to return, "we won't all come back at once."
"A phased approach will be needed that balances the time required for services to be re-established with the urgency to get you back home and back to your life," said Alty.
A number of highway closures continue to affect the territory, with the N.W.T. government advising Highway 6 from Hay River to Fort Resolution closed Friday night due to wildfire.