Firefighters stand in a fire break near the Hay River-KFN fire on May 19, 2023. Mike Westwick/GNWT
The Town of Hay River says it’s working out how evacuees can come home despite the likelihood that the nearby wildfire will keep burning in some form for weeks to come.
More than a week has now passed since a wildfire forced the evacuation of Hay River and the neighbouring Kátł’odeeche First Nation, which have a combined population of around 4,000 people.
Posting to Facebook on Monday morning, the town said details of a virtual public meeting involving the NWT government would be made public “over the next day or two.” Later on Monday, the town said the meeting will take place at 4pm on Tuesday at this link.
That meeting will include an update on the fire itself and supports available for evacuees, as well as a chance to ask questions.
“Work on a re-entry plan is ongoing, to be able to bring people back as soon as the NWT ECC and other emergency officials indicate it is safe to do so,” the town stated, using an initialism for the territory’s Department of Environment and Climate Change.
“The plan considers the fact that it will take most of the summer to completely put out the fire and there will be variable levels of risks associated with unknown weather and other conditions during that time,” the town added.
“Other essential organizations will be developing and aligning their opening plans with the town’s re-entry plan. The town and KFN are coordinating re-entry plans for the two communities.”
In the meantime, the town said it was lobbying the territory to provide more financial assistance for evacuees and was continuing to work on measures that might reduce fire risk in Hay River.
The road into the community remains closed. Evacuees are still urged to stay away from the town and the First Nation.
The town said around 1,300 evacuees have registered with the City of Yellowknife and 544 separately through the Town of Hay River, “with numbers from Fort Providence and other locations still to be counted.”
In a Monday morning update of its own, the NWT’s wildfire agency said Monday promised to be slightly cooler with winds from the north.
“No rain in the forecast and very dry air means dry forests and the possibility for high fire activity and smoke through the end of the peak burning period at around 7pm,” NWT Fire wrote in its update.
“The team will be pushing hard to hold our lines to the south as the wind blows the fire that way.”