Wildfire update, Aug. 19: Overnight rain makes for “status quo” day in Yellowknife

Difficult conditions are on the way for the N.W.T. capital.

The North Slave fire complex on Aug. 17, 2023. (NWT Fire photo.)

Some light rain overnight made for a “status quo” wildfire day in the Yellowknife region on Saturday, with the nearest fire remaining about 15 km from the NWT capital.

On Saturday evening, the GNWT hosted a press conference on the state of the wildfire situation that included Premier Caroline Cochrane, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty, and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Shane Thompson.

The defensive fire line to the west of Yellowknife has been “substantially completed,” according to Mayor Alty. About 25 kilometres of protective line have been established.

Information officer Mike Westwick said thanks to the relief brought on by the rain, there may be an opportunity to attack the fire head-on. “This hasn’t been a tactic that’s been available to us because of the intensity and speed which with which the fire has been moving,” he said.

Westick said although the fire near Yellowknife is “taking a nap” thanks to favourable conditions, difficult conditions are expected early next week that could wake it back up, including temperatures in the 20’s and westerly winds.

One patient died while being transported from Stanton Territorial Hospital. Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green said this was an “expected death.” Thirty-nine other patients were successfully evacuated to B.C.

“The rampdown of services provided to patients in Stanton Territorial Hospital is now complete,” said Green.

In response to concerns about looting and public order in YK, the number of RCMP officers in the capital has been increased from 50 to 70. “I’ve driven around a number of times over the past few days and nights, and you can’t go five minutes without seeing another officer in a vehicle or walking on foot in the back alleys,” said Alty.

During the press conference, members of the panel dispelled a rumour that a date had been set for return to Yellowknife in September. No date has yet been set for return. Minister Shane Thompson said the goal is to return residents “as quickly as possible, but as safely as possible.”

Difficult conditions also expected in South Slave

In the South Slave, wildfire remains about 4 km from Fort Smith, eight kilometres from Hay River, and 14 km from Kakisa. But difficult conditions are forecast in the region for the coming days, including southerly winds and the return of hot temperatures.

Meanwhile, about 30 residents remain in Kakisa, which is under evacuation order but has had telecommunications disrupted. Minister Shane Thompson said the community has been provided with a Starlink to facilitate communications, and residents are being encouraged to leave as soon as possible.

More than 19,000 people have been evacuated from the N.W.T. capital. More than 68 per cent of the population of the territory has been evacuated.

About the Author

Ian Down
Ian Down is a general news reporter from the West Island of Montreal. After studying journalism and computer science at Concordia University, he came to Yellowknife in 2021, joining the CKLB team in September 2022. When not behind his desk, you can find him at a local Yellowknife poetry reading, or annoying his roommates by playing his clarinet at odd hours. Feel free to reach out with any tips or story ideas at ian.down@cklb.com, or follow him on Twitter at @IanDown1996.