Wildfire update, September 11 5:00 p.m.: Fort Smith approves return dates as North, South Slave brace for more difficult days ahead

Fort Smith's essential workers are tentatively scheduled to start returning tomorrow.

(Parks Canada photo)

Residents of Fort Smith now have a tentative timeline for when they can return home.

On Monday morning, the town’s council unanimously approved a re-entry plan for the community: According to this plan, essential workers will return, and essential services will be returned to operation, from Sept. 12 to 17. The general public will then be welcomed back starting Sept. 18, followed by more vulnerable members of the community.

These dates are all subject to change based on fire conditions.

Meanwhile, Hay River’s town council will be getting an update from the Department of Environment and Climate Change later this evening that will inform that community’s own return dates. Last week, the Town approved and released its re-entry plan. Similar to Yellowknife’s re-entry plan, essential workers will return first, followed by members of the general public without health complications.

But this plan did not include return dates.

At the same time, Hay River’s evacuation order will be downgraded to an evacuation notice: In other words, residents should remain aware of the proximity of the fire and watch for updates from government officials.

Residents of Kakisa have already been given the green light to go home: In an update on Saturday, the GNWT announced the evacuation order for the community had been downgraded to an evacuation alert.

Residents of evacuated South Slave communities will soon be able to pre-register for flights: in a press conference on Monday afternoon, Emergency Management Office Spokesperson Jay Boast said a pre-registration service will open at 8 a.m. tomorrow and close at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

But as South Slave communities prepare for an eventual return, difficult days remain ahead for fire crews: On Sunday, NWT Fire forecasted “aggressive fire conditions on tap” for the coming days, including hot and dry conditions and strong winds. But there is also a chance of rain in the South Slave on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We’re not getting a break any time soon,” said Fire Information Officer Mike Westwick.

Boast said nearly 2,900 vehicles crossed the Deh Cho Bridge over the weekend, while over 1,500 evacuees flew home.

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.