Ice Road Trucker Alex: Help needed for truckers stranded by NWT forest fires

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 8/5/2014

An outbreak of devastating forest fires in Canada’s sparsely populated Northwest Territories is causing havoc for all sorts of people, particularly over-the-road truckers, says Yellowknife resident and reality TV star Alex Debogorski.

Debogorski, one of the stars of “Ice Road Truckers” and an OOIDA life member, makes his home in Yellowknife, the territorial capital of the Northwest Territories. He said the fires, which have been raging all summer and shutting down highways, have left many truckers stuck.

Canadian authorities estimate that there have been nearly 300 forest fires in the region this year, of which about 240 are currently burning, according to a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The region is roughly twice the size of Texas, but boasts a population of around 44,000 people.

“It’s like the whole territory is on fire,” Debogorski said in a phone interview with Land Line. “Half our population are First Nations people. Because we’ve got such a small population and we’re a federal jurisdiction … a lot of these places in the middle of nowhere, they’re letting burn. When it starts threatening residences or the roads, they just don’t have the capacity to hold it back.”

The region’s Department of Transportation has issued intermittent highway closings for several of the territory’s main roads. Highway 3, from Providence to Yellowknife, has been closed frequently.

Debogorski said that because the area relies so heavily on trucking for supplies and has been looking for ways to promote its tourism and recreational opportunities, it could do itself and the stranded drivers a favor by treating them like guests.

He said he was particularly incensed by what he believes is an attitude adopted by government officials that doesn’t take into consideration the impact on truckers left stranded in the remote region. Many of them are without access to basic services like restrooms and showers.

“Basically, they’re insinuating that these truck drivers are supposed to be prepared,” he said. “Well, what can they do? Do they bring their own portable outhouse with them? “

“They always have all these tourism initiatives trying to get people up there,” he said. “It just pisses me off that they don’t consider truck drivers people. If you have a community and you want to advertise tourism, you treat the truck drivers right.”

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