As essential workers return to Hay River, the territory’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change warns residents they may need to get used to living with wildfire for the foreseeable future.
That’s according to updates shared in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
“It’s very likely these fires will need to be managed until snowfall,” said Minister Shane Thompson.
Essential workers have been returning to the town since Wednesday. If the wildfire risk holds, members of the general public should be able to return starting Sunday.
But the fire nearest to Hay River and K’atl’odeeche First Nation rages on: Today is forecast to be another difficult day of firefighting, with hot and dry conditions and winds from the south and south-southwest in the forecast, according to NWT Fire.
As residents return, they should also be prepared to see strong wildfire activity near their community.
Hay River’s town council plans to meet sometime today to re-evaluate the fire risk.
Enterprise is working on its own re-entry plan, a challenge given how much of the community was devastated by wildfire. “We’re looking at all options that we have on the table, as well as different ideas, interim housing, local hotels,” said Mayor Michael St Amour. “Anything’s possible, we’re just working on trying to get everybody back home.”
Meanwhile, pre-registration for flights to the South Slave has been extended by an extra day. Pre-registration was originally supposed to close Thursday at 8:00 p.m., but is now open until 5:00 p.m. this evening.
On the financial front, the wildfire crisis has almost completely eaten away at the territory’s surplus: Minister of Finance Caroline Wawzonek said the GNWT’s projected $178 million surplus is now just $5 million, “predominantly due to the wildfire season, the wildfire response and the evacuation response.”
Wawzonek said the territory could recuperate as much as 90 per cent of eligible costs from federal disaster relief, but that this could take years.
In Yellowknife, obstetrics services returned to full operation at Stanton Territorial Hospital yesterday. This means most health and social services in Yellowknife are now running at or near full capacity. Extended care has not yet returned to Stanton, but Territorial Medical Director Claudia Kraft said on Thursday patients and their families will be getting notices about repatriation “potentially as early as the coming days.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated pre-registration for South Slave return flights was open until 8:00 p.m. this evening. It is actually open until 5:00 p.m.