HAY RIVER, N.W.T. -- Fire fighters built up fireguards in an effort to contain the front of a 196,000-hectare fire from moving in on the 3,000 residents of Hay River.
Robert Bailey, acting head of fire control in the Northwest Territories, said Sunday the fire was about 25 kilometers south of Hay River and moving in an easterly direction.
But southeasterly winds forecast for today could push the fire north in the direction of the town, a vital rail, road and sea transportation hub on Great Slave Lake about 225 kilometers south of Yellowknife, Bailey said.
'So we're taking action to stop that movement today,' he said.
About 60 professional fire fighters started controlled fires 'burning out' from the Hay River and a nearby highway to meet the huge blaze and force it to burn in on itself until it was exhausted.
'If we're successful in checking it, it will never reach Hay River,' said Bailey. Asked if he were confident the fire could be contained, he replied: 'We're sure going to try.'
The blaze had moved away from the small community of Enterprise, about 35 kilometers south of Hay River, an Emergency Measures Organization spokesman said.
Don Johnston, in charge of emergency planning for the territories, said the 40 residents of Enterprise had been allowed to return home Saturday when westerly winds pushed the fire away from the community.
They had left their homes Thursday when the fire threatened to jump the Hay River and engulf their homes.
'They're back home now,' said Johnston. 'The smoke has cleared and the fire has moved on. It's about 10 miles from the community now.'
He said the emergency planning organization in Hay River was 'on standby, of course,' but it would be 'three or four days' before the blaze presented any danger to the town.
In British Columbia, about 2,000 men manned fire lines to battle some 710 fires burning in the province.
A 24,000-hectare fire burning about 40 kilometes southwest of Fort Nelson was spreading more slowly, said fire protection officer Jim Dunlop.
'It's still alive and well, but it's not spreading all that fast and there's no concern about the safety of the town,' said Dunlop.
About 30 new fires burned in the province Sunday, most started by lightning, he said.