The fire reached Behchokǫ̀ on Tuesday night. Five homes are lost to the fire in Rae as of today. Diane Archie, Minister of Infrastructure, emphasized: “The Department of Infrastructure will be able to assess and then have a look at how we prioritize for equipment and supplies getting into the community. However, there is an evacuation order in place. It’s not safe to be in any of the communities on the roads unless you need to be. It is not safe to return to the communities.”
Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services, during a briefing held on Wednesday, reported that 1,050 people took refuge at the evacuation center in Yellowknife. Behchokǫ̀ residents evacuated to Yellowknife, Fort Providence, Enterprise, Hay River, and Whatì.
125 residents remain in Behchokǫ̀, as they are assisting with firefighting and protecting important infrastructure and “are not a group of people reluctant to leave, but rather they have a reason to be there.” Green stated.
The wildfire has now spread to both sides of Highway 3, closing it down from kilometre 238 to 334 until further notice. At this time, there has been no assessment of structure loss along Highway 3.
The main priority is to safeguard the community of Behchokǫ̀ and to make sure that Rae is a secure area for residents to return to, once the community is fire safe. Crews are focusing on structure protection, including the installation and maintenance of sprinklers, controlled burning of vegetation, and clearing of brush along the highway.
Efforts are underway to reinforce safeguards and prevent wildfires from posing a threat to the city of Yellowknife.
The town of Edzo remains fire free and is currently at low risk of fire, given today’s wind direction. Although, authorities emphasize that the situation could change rapidly, urging Edzo residents to remain on guard.
During the night, the fire reached the Frank Channel area, but due to the structure protections, no buildings were lost. Additionally, there have been no reports of spot fires, and the Stagg River power station has not been impacted or compromised by the fire.
The breach on Highway 3 did not cause any damage or issues with the fibre optic line, but the fibre line is still at risk and authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
The latest fire update states that the territory still fights 132 active wildfires, which have already consumed over 1.2 million hectares of land this year.
Jay Boast, spokesperson for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, stated that “the way that the NWT emergency plan is set up is to not have specific rigid plans, but rather to have resources that can be used to solve problems based on the situation at the given time […] that is actually the beauty and the flexibility of the NW T emergency plan is that the resources are in place that can be used to meet the problem.”
The Northwest Territories are facing a devastating fire season, with fires spreading rapidly and causing significant financial strain. Shane Thompson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said that the cost of wildfires is about $30 million.
Premier Caroline Cochrane expressed concern over the escalating costs and said that the territorial government is preparing to request financial support from the federal government.
Cochrane concluded by emphasizing that the priority of the government is to save lives, no matter the cost.