(Yellowknife) Fire activity along a major road in the Northwest Territories is expected to increase in the coming days, while the RCMP says it will prevent a potentially large group from returning while an evacuation order is still in effect.
Published yesterday at 10:17 p.m.
According to the territorial government, Highway 1, which connects the territories to Alberta, is open for essential travel but could close without warning due to poor visibility.
Due to strong winds, the road is expected to be closed to all traffic between Friday and Sunday, meaning there has been a pause for the return of non-healthcare essential workers.
Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said the delay was disappointing but progress had been made.
“Although we have had to suspend the return of staff, that does not mean we have stopped work. Like me, you’re probably feeling upset, angry, frustrated, and lots of other emotions,” she commented.
Call for patience and caution
Provincial Environment and Climate Change Minister Shane Thompson said Yellowknife must be prepared for a massive return of its residents and evacuees must be patient.
“Once again, I ask residents not to contact communities that have received an evacuation order. It is not safe to return to these communities, so please do not create additional work for emergency responders who are keeping our communities safe,” he said during an interview at a briefing on Thursday.
Corporal Matt Halstead, spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), said police have received reports that 50 vehicles plan to return from Alberta before the evacuation order is lifted.
Anyone who endangers the safety of government personnel or RCMP officers at checkpoints could face charges, he warned, urging people not to engage in risky behavior.
“The investigation is ongoing and we are monitoring this closely. I have no information to suggest that anything real has come of this, other than in the planning stages at this point,” he said.
Mike Westwick, wildfire information officer, said he knew firsthand that the road was unsafe due to limited visibility.
“This morning I saw a fire engine with its lights on emerge from the smoke and fog a few meters away from me without ever having seen it. For safety reasons, it is very unlikely that you will be able to access this road safely,” he testified.
About 70% of the territory’s population — including 20,000 residents of the capital, Yellowknife — have been evacuated for nearly two weeks or more.
Westwick said “very good progress” has been made in combating the Yellowknife fire, but at this time the community of Hay River remains at risk as the fire is only about a mile from town.
The start of the school year is affected
Jameel Aziz, superintendent of Education District 1 in Yellowknife, said in a phone call that local schools are two weeks behind schedule because of evacuation orders and checkpoints.
“As we have displaced families across all parts of Canada, our minister has contacted most provincial districts and asked them for some flexibility to allow families to enroll their students at the start of the school year. »
Aziz said it may be longer than expected before students can return to schools in the Northwest Territories. The school district currently has more questions than answers as wildfire conditions remain uncertain, he said.
With the collaboration of Jamin Mike and Bill Graveland