A photo by Teresa Zoe shows a wildfire near Behchokǫ̀ on July 25, 2023.
The NWT’s wildfire agency says fire ZF015 reached Behchokǫ̀ overnight and destroyed three homes in Rae.
According to a Wednesday morning update from the agency, there are spot fires in Rae and a fire at the dump has caused spotting in a forested area. The agency said Edzo has “not been compromised” but that could change.
While Highway 3 has reopened, the territorial government is warning residents it is not safe to return to the community.
People in Behchokǫ̀, which is home to approximately 2,000 people, were told to evacuate on Monday night.
NWT Fire said patrols began at 5:30am on Wednesday to address spot fires and prevent flare-ups, adding that while the fibre-optic line has not been compromised by the fire breaching Highway 3, that remains a risk.
Extremely windy, hot and dry conditions are expected to continue on Wednesday, which NWT Fire said will continue to push the fire west.
“It will be another extremely challenging day. The safety of our people is number one,” the update read.
Curtis Grosco lives next to the fire base at Frank Channel, where he used to work. His family also owns FC Services Ltd, a convenience store and fuelling station in Behchokǫ̀.
On Tuesday night, he said he went to Edzo when territorial officials came to his door and suggested he leave. His son was stuck in Rae overnight and ended up helping to protect the store and a few other buildings from the fire.
At 3am, Grosco said he decided to return home. At around 7:30am, he drove into Behchokǫ̀ to check on the store and assess the situation.
“There’s several power poles that are burnt going into Behchokǫ̀ along the Rae road, near the substation,” he told Cabin Radio, describing the damage he saw.
“There’s three or four houses for-sure burned down, plus a yard that had some equipment in it that caused a number of little explosions, from I guess gas tanks and propane tanks.”
“This was a firestorm in the extreme,” he added. “It’s tense. A lot of people are very stressed.”