Wildfire update, Aug. 23 9:00 p.m.: RCMP able but reluctant to enforce evacuation orders

Violators could face one year in custody or a $5,000 fine.

(Video still from Town of Hay River)

As the wildfire crisis drags on in the Northwest Territories, police say they are reluctant to use their powers to enforce evacuation orders.

That’s according to a press conference hosted by GNWT officials earlier this evening.

The evacuation orders have been rewritten to emphasise the RCMP have the power to enforce them: Ignoring an evacuation order is punishable by up to one year in prison or up to a $5,000 fine for an individual.

But RCMP Corporal Matt Halstead said the police don’t want to use these powers: “We’re not really looking to have to use that; This is about public safety. It’s not safe to be here,” he said.

“We’re still going to be encouraging them to leave by informing them of the risk that they take by staying here and trying to connect them with evacuation resources.”

The fire nearest to Yellowknife remains about 15 km away at its nearest point, as it has for several days, according to Information Officer Jessica Davey-Quantick. It is still not expected to reach town in the next few days.

Davey-Quantick said fire is about 9 km from Jean Marie river, with rain and cooler temperatures forecast for the end of the week.

The evacuation of Fort Smith and Yellowknife has caused supply chain disruptions to surrounding communities. “The GNWT is currently engaging with both community governments, Indigenous governments, local retailers and distributors to ensure that food and supplies will continue to be delivered to communities in a timely manner,” said Emergency Management Organization Information Officer. Jennifer Young.

Young confirmed there is still room at evacuation centres in Calgary and Edmonton.

Young also said the SPCA is working with the City of Yellowknife to retrieve pets who were left behind in the evacuation. Anyone who had to leave a pet behind in Yellowknife can fill out a pet retrieval form on the City’s website.

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.