Wildfire update, Sept. 5 9:00 p.m.: North Slave evacuees prepare to return home, while South Slave is wracked by drought

Drought conditions are causing fire to burn deep into the ground, posing a challenge for fire crews.

Firefighters at work during the summer of 2023. (NWT Fire photo)

As residents of Yellowknife, Dettah, Ndilǫ, and the Ingraham Trail prepare to return home tomorrow, in the South Slave the situation is different.

That’s according to updates shared by the GNWT on Tuesday.

The South Slave in particular is experiencing severe drought conditions: Around the Wood Buffalo Complex near Fort Smith, the Drought Code is more than 1,100. Anything above 340 is considered extreme. In August, the Fort Smith area received 5 millimetres of rain, compared to a typical years’ rainfall of 64 millimetres.

In the Hay River area, the Drought Code is about 700.

These conditions are causing fires to burn deep into the ground, posing a challenge for fire crews. Because of this, “the risk remains significant” to Hay River and surrounding communities, according to NWT Fire.

Near Fort Smith, crews are conducting what NWT Fire calls “seek and destroy” missions targeting hotspots.

As evacuees return to evacuated North Slave communities, the City of Yellowknife is issuing several notes of caution to drivers: Highways could still close due to nearby wildfires; Communities in Northern Alberta have “limited capacity” to support travellers; And services will not be running at full capacity by the time Yellowknifers arrive back home.

Upon return, water that has been sitting in tanks is most likely not good for cooking or drinking given how long it has been sitting stagnant, and residents relying on tanked water should first wait for a refill. Piped water may be discoloured, and those with piped water should run their taps for 5-10 minutes and flush their toilets.

The City is looking for volunteers to drive residents home from the airport as early as tomorrow morning. Interested residents are encouraged to contact csaunders@yellowknife.ca to sign up.

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.