Helicopters Magazine

News Aerial Firefighting Emergency Response
Hay River, N.W.T., residents allowed to return Thursday as wildfire burns

May 24, 2023  By The Canadian Press

HAY RIVER, N.W.T. — Officials from the town of Hay River say residents will be allowed to return to the Northwest Territories community Thursday even as a wildfire continues to burn on the nearby K’atl’odeeche First Nation reserve.

Around 3,500 residents from the town and reserve were forced to leave their homes on May 14.

A post on the town’s Facebook page Wednesday said the evacuation order would be reduced to an evacuation alert. That means the general public will be allowed to return but residents should be prepared to leave again if conditions worsen.

“Conditions are still not without risk, but the town recognizes the offsetting impact and risks to residents being away from their homes,” the post states.


“The mayor and council appreciate residents’ sacrifices during this time. Countless people have relentlessly worked to ensure there has been no damage to your homes or properties and are excited for you to return.”

Glenn Smith, Hay River’s senior administrative officer, said Tuesday during an overview of the re-entry plan that getting the fire under control was a key condition for allowing people to return. He said the fire will be active throughout the summer and weather will affect its severity and the risk it poses.

“We know that everyone wants to come home. We know that this has been extremely stressful on so many levels and we are doing everything we can to get you back home as soon as it is safe,” Mayor Kandis Jameson said. “We had a safe evacuation and we are not going to risk bringing people back too soon.”

Re-entry begins with the restoration of essential services on Wednesday, which includes calling in staff, completing inspections and assessments and stocking supplies. That will be followed by general community re-entry on Thursday at noon, and finally allowing the return of people with special health-care needs such as dialysis once the evacuation alert is lifted.

The K’atl’odeeche First Nation will have a separate plan for residents to return.

Crews continue to tackle the out-of-control wildfire near the town that is more than 32 square kilometres in size. Firefighters are completing control lines to the south and east of the fire and blacklining or extinguishing burnable fuels in front of control lines.

“Over the last few days we’ve been throwing everything we have at this fire,” said Westly Steed, incident commander for the territory’s Department of Environment and Climate Change on Tuesday.

He said hot and dry conditions have made the fire challenging.

“We’ve got work to do still … When we see that it’s safe for our firefighters, then we know it’ll be safe for the community of Hay River.”

More than a dozen buildings have been damaged by the fire on the K’atl’odeeche First Nation reserve.

While there have been spot fires in Hay River as winds carried embers over the river, there were no fires in the town Wednesday morning and no damage has been reported.

Residents from both K’atl’odeeche First Nation and Hay River were previously forced to leave their homes last May due to historic flooding in the area. In October, the Northwest Territories government said it estimated the flooding caused more than $174 million in damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure in the communities.

As of Wednesday morning, 11 fires were burning across the territory, including a nearly 57-square-kilometres fire about 50 kilometres south of Sambaa K’e. Crews have been pulled off that fire due to its intensity and risk but it is still being monitored.

A wildfire greater than 38 square kilometres in size is also burning around 100 kilometres west of Kakisa. The territory said the community is not at risk.

A total of 17 wildfires have burned around 170 square kilometres in the territory this season so far.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2021


Stories continue below

Print this page