Residents of K’atl’odeeche First Nation and the neighbouring community of Hay River, N.W.T., remain displaced as an out-of-control wildfire continues to burn in the area.
Around 3,500 people from both communities were forced to evacuate Sunday evening. The Town of Hay River has said 896 evacuees had registered in Yellowknife, some 480 kilometres away, and 298 were staying at the evacuation centre at the multiplex in the territorial capital. Residents have also offered up spare rooms and camp sites, along with other supports.
“Help isn’t going anywhere,” Shane Thompson, territorial minister of environment and climate change, told a media briefing Thursday. “We will be with you every step of the way.”
The fire, which was last estimated at 1,782 hectares, is suspected to have been human-caused. Wildfire officials said there have been no reports of damage in Hay River, but 15 buildings have been damaged on the reserve.
Wildfire information officer Mike Westwick said extremely hot and dry conditions on Wednesday have led to greater fire activity with heavy smoke and ash being pushed toward the communities. He said 11 fire crews, nearly 120 people, and multiple helicopters, air tankers and pieces of heavy equipment are working to battle the fire and prevent further damage.
“We’re looking ahead to some difficult days of working on this fire,” he said, adding the outlook for the wildfire season across the territory is severe.
The Yellowknife Fire Division is banning fires within city limits beginning at noon on Friday.
In Alberta, there were 92 active wildfires Wednesday morning, 29 of which were out of control. Roughly 12,000 people remain forced from their homes.
There are more than 2,500 people fighting the wildfires in Alberta, including support from across Canada, the Armed Forces and the United States.