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Fire and smoke from a wildfire are shown in Hay River, Northwest Territories in May, 2023.James Cardinal Jr./The Canadian Press

A wildfire firefighter was killed while battling a blaze in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories this weekend.

The man was working near his home of Fort Liard, a 500-person hamlet about 40 kilometres north of the British Columbia border, when he was injured and died, according to the territory’s wildfire service. He and other crew members had been trying to prevent the 10-hectare fire from getting too close to Highway 7, the only direct road link between B.C. and the territory.

“Our thoughts are with his family, friends, colleagues and community. We share your deep sorrow at this loss,” Wildfire Information Officer Jessica Davey-Quantick said in a statement. She said the firefighter’s family has been told but that they’re holding off on releasing any personal details about him for the time being because their community is so small.

The firefighter’s death is the second in Canada in the last week. On Thursday, 19-year-old Devyn Gale died while battling a fire near her hometown of Revelstoke, B.C., when a tree fell on her. Her team found her pinned to the ground after losing contact with her and gave her first aid, but Ms. Gale succumbed to her injuries after being airlifted to hospital.

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The Northwest Territories has seen 110 wildfires eat up 809,510 hectares of land so far this season, and 89 of them are still burning. By far the greatest burn area is in the Dehcho Region, where Fort Liard is located. In that region alone, 580,421 hectares have burned so far. Of the four wildfire stations in the region, two are classified at an “extreme” fire danger rating for Sunday and all four are forecast to be at “extreme” by Monday.

“This has already been a very challenging season,” Ms. Davey-Quantick told The Globe and Mail. She said they’ve had to evacuate four communities already, when in a typical season they would likely evacuate none. They’re also stretched particularly thin on resources because firefighters they would normally rely on from Alberta and elsewhere are busy with their own blazes.

Like the rest of Canada, the Northwest Territories has been experiencing an especially hot and dry summer. Numerous communities, including Fort Liard, broke daily temperature records earlier in July. The latest Canadian drought report from the end of June classified southern parts of the territory as either abnormally, moderately or severely dry.

The Northwest Territories’ Premier, Caroline Cochrane, called the firefighter’s death “a tragic loss for the entire territory.”

“The bravery and selflessness of our firefighters is an incredible gift to us all. Thank you for your service to our territory and to our country,” she said in a statement.

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