Readers, I have a confession. I’m not a fan of winter. Or cold. Or snow. I’m firmly a summer sport gal. I’d rather swim than ski, vacation on a beach rather than a mountain, and wear linen capris rather than a parka. So I have a lot of admiration for people who live in extremely cold areas.
I recently spoke with Bobbi-Jane Kellestine, the assistant manager at Dall Contracting, a residential and commercial bulk fuel distributor in the Yukon. As the youngest female bulk fuel manager in Petro-Canada’s Western network, I was keen to discuss some of the challenges with fuel distribution in Canada’s northern regions but also understand what life, in general, is like in the land of the midnight sun.
PT: Hi, Bobbi-Jane - thank you for taking the time to chat with me about all things Yukon! Can you tell me a bit about your journey to Canada’s north?
BK: I moved to the Yukon with my mom in 2006 from Muskoka, Ontario. While Muskoka is an amazing place to be, and I will always treasure my memories of life there, the Yukon is my Home. As the years have passed I’ve been very blessed to be able to explore so much of this captivating territory and now I couldn’t possibly imagine living anywhere else. I attended the Yukon University (then Yukon College) Health Care Attendant program. I worked various health care positions over the years but in the summer of 2019 I found myself looking for a change.
PT: How did you get started in the oil and gas business?
BK: Being a young Ojibwe woman, I was a bit hesitant to apply on a job in the petroleum industry with no previous industry experience, but I applied on a position at Dall Contracting and finally discovered my true passion. I was so lucky to have found a company like Dall that was willing to guide and counsel me as I dove headfirst into learning the inner workings of life at a bulk petroleum plant. I’ve been provided with so many fantastic resources and mentors to help me expand my knowledge of the industry that I was able to advance into a management role at our Whitehorse bulk plant.
PT: What’s the work like at Dall Contracting? What kinds of customers do you serve?
BK: We operate 5 bulk plants in Whitehorse YT, Watson Lake YT, Fort Nelson BC, Fort St John BC, and Dawson Creek BC. We provide bulk petroleum to a wide variety of industries including mining, drilling, construction, road maintenance, agriculture, automotive, forestry, and many others. Additionally, Dall Contracting sites offer commercial cardlock services, residential heating fuel deliveries, and the supply of lubricants*. In Whitehorse, we also have the distinction of being the northernmost Petro-Canada Commercial Cardlock in the Yukon Territory.
PT: What unique challenges do you face supporting your customers?
BK: On the shortest day of the year in Whitehorse, the sun rises at 11:09 AM and sets at 4:46 PM. In December we saw more than 21 days of snow, and in January local temperatures hit -45 degrees Celsius, -51 with the wind chill. Conditions like that make for a very cold, dark day at work. It’s on days like this, when nothing wants to work in the extreme weather that our drivers are called on to do just that. They face frozen equipment, deep snow drifts, difficult driving conditions, and countless other challenges to ensure that our clients as well as their homes and businesses stay safe, warm, and well cared for.
Avalanches, mudslides, wildfire, and flooding are all challenges we face each year in the north, both locally and through the impacts of road closures resulting from these events. We do what we can as a community to be prepared and to support one another in the aftermath but it isn’t always easy.
PT: Are there particular areas of growth that you see in the Yukon?
BK: I believe that it’s important to shop and support local with the things we use most often when it’s possible to do so, and being able to supply quality Canadian fuels is something that I take pride in. The Yukon has a fast-growing agriculture industry with more than 10,000 hectares of agriculture area. Farming in the north presents unique sets of challenges that Yukoners seem eager and ready to face. I feel that the opportunity to grow with and support the local farming community is an exciting one.
PT: What else about the Yukon would you like to share with our readers?
BK: The Yukon is home to some of the most spectacular sights and scenery in the country. We boast the world’s smallest desert in Carcross, coming in at just 1.6km2. 17 of 20 of the country’s tallest mountains are in Yukon, including Mt. Logan, Canada’s tallest peak at 5,959m. The Yukon River is Canada’s second longest river measuring 3,190km. We are so lucky to be able to live, work, and play amongst these phenomenal places. As a reward for surviving and thriving in the Yukon’s harsh winter playgrounds, we are blessed with Yukon summers. With up to 24 hours of daylight in some areas, you can really keep a good day going.
PT: Anything you miss about living in a more southern area?
BK: The Yukon doesn’t leave me wanting for much, but if I had to identify one thing I miss about living down south I’d have to say I miss experiencing warmth and darkness at the same time. There is something to be said for a nice bonfire with friends on a warm night under the moon, rather than under the Midnight Sun.
Bobbi-Jane, thank you for sharing some insight about living and working in the Yukon! And thank you to Ben Howie for letting us share some of his photos here. For more of Ben’s photos and life in the Yukon, check out our Instagram post.
~ Kate T.
*Petro‑Canada Branded Lubricants are supplied by Petro‑Canada Lubricants Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of HollyFrontier.