The NWT government’s Wednesday prognosis for the Hay River-KFN fire is that things aren’t necessarily worse, but there’s a lot of work ahead.
The fire is now estimated at around 1,780 hectares burned. The weather returned to being hot and dry on Wednesday with wind from the east pushing smoke and ash toward the two communities.
Both Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation have been under evacuation orders since Sunday. The majority of their 4,000 residents have sought safety in Yellowknife or surrounding South Slave and Dehcho communities.
After three days away from home, those residents were told on Wednesday that it’ll still be some time before anyone is allowed back.
In other fire zones, such as parts of northern Alberta, residents have had to wait one to two weeks before being allowed back after evacuation orders. So far, nobody in the NWT has placed any firm timeline on the wait Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation residents might face.
The number of people tackling the fire has risen from 100 to around 120 in the past day, the territory’s Department of Environment and Climate Change said in an update at 4pm. Their work includes trying to steer the fire away from the communities to the west – and Highway 5 to the south – by removing fuels like foliage that could allow it to grow.
No additional buildings have been lost to the fire since Monday. Around 15 First Nation buildings are reported to have been hit by the fire to date, while Hay River has sustained no damage.
There are “many challenges ahead as the team continues to work tirelessly to protect these communities,” the department said, concluding its Wednesday update.
The Town of Hay River said 896 evacuees have registered in Yellowknife and 298 are staying at the multiplex.
Those numbers appear significantly higher than for last year’s flood. At the time, 510 evacuees were reported to have registered in Yellowknife with 200 at the multiplex.
The NWT government said a Hay River family doctor is in Yellowknife and “has been designated to ensure access to urgent needs such as prescription refills for evacuees.”
If you’re an evacuee, call 867-767-9294 or 867-767-9125 for a phone consultation. For non-urgent health advice or information, call 8-1-1 at any time of day.
United Way NWT said on Wednesday it was raising its fundraising target to $300,000 after receiving a $10,000 donation from Enbridge. Overall, around $40,000 has been raised to help wildfire evacuees so far.
United Way said it was also seeking to help Fort McPherson as the Beaufort Delta hamlet’s flood emergency continues. You can donate via the United Way NWT website. Following a meeting of territorial premiers, Nunavut and Yukon each said they would contribute $25,000 to the United Way fund.
Elsewhere, a small wildfire outside Inuvik’s airport has now been fully extinguished.
Fire EV001, first reported on Tuesday, was quickly tackled by a single crew, the department said. It was the territory’s eighth wildfire of the year.