Last updated Friday, Sept. 8 at 8:45 p.m.
As evacuated North Slave residents returned home, 676 vehicles, including commercial vehicles, crossed the Deh Cho Bridge on Wednesday, while 268 residents returned on repatriation flights.
That’s according to updates shared at a GNWT press conference on Thursday evening.
As residents return, City of Yellowknife services are returning as well: Transit starts up again on Monday, while the library, City Hall, the Visitor Centre, the Multiplex, the Fieldhouse, and the arena, are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday.
A third-party review of the emergency response is coming, which will be discussed at the first city council meeting on Sept. 25.
In the South Slave, Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson said at this evening’s press conference the re-entry plan for the town will be released tomorrow afternoon, and the return dates will be discussed at a council meeting on Monday.
But the weekend is predicted to be a difficult one for firefighting, with warm, dry conditions forecast.
Many questions at this evening’s press conference concerned the repatriation of Yellowknife’s homeless population. It is unclear how many have returned home, since the Emergency Management Office (EMO) doesn’t ask returning residents about their housing situation.
EMO spokesperson Jay Boast cautioned media not to adopt a “paternalistic tone” about this population, and stressed that many might object to the idea of being tracked. “I think it’s important to remember and to treat these people, like residents of the Northwest Territories,” he said. “We provide services for residents of the Northwest Territories, we work to communicate with all of our residents, and we work to have supports for all of our residents.”
He said the EMO is providing information in as many forms as possible, up to and including sending letters. Premier Caroline Cochrane even said she made efforts to personally spread the message about registering for flights, posting a message on her personal Facebook and urging others to spread the word.
Repatriation flights are scheduled to run until Sunday. The deadline to register is Friday at 8:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, Highway 7 remains closed near the B.C. border due to wildfire. Boast said he is not aware of any evacuees stranded in the province due to the closure.
Finally, Premier Cochrane issued a call to all Canadians. “As the weather cools, and the news cycle moves on, please don’t forget about us,” she said. “Don’t forget about the North. We need the support of all Canadians and the federal government if we are not only to rebuild, but also to close the gaps between the North and the South that heighten the stress of this horrible fire season.”
More structures lost in South Slave
On Thursday, five new structures were confirmed destroyed in the South Slave along Highway 1, according to NWT Fire. These losses most likely stretch back to Aug. 13. Three other structures were confirmed lost around 6 Mile Creek. These would have been destroyed during a severe wind event on Aug. 25.
GNWT removes tax on income support
Also on Thursday, the GNWT’s Department of Finance announced it would no longer be applying a 10 per cent withholding tax to Income Disruption Support Payments. This means residents will receive the full $750 payment instead of only $675. Residents who have already received a payment will soon get the extra $75.
Full telecom service restored to Beaufort Delta
After a month of weak telecom service, the link has finally been restored to the Beaufort Delta.
Northwestel announced on Thursday it had repaired the damaged Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link. This line was previously inaccessible due to wildfire. There may still be minor disruptions to service for customers in the Delta over the next few days.