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Fires ‘no immediate threat’ to Fort Smith but creeping closer to highway

Satellite hot-spots and burn areas around Fort Smith as of July 29, 2023.
Satellite hot-spots and burn areas around Fort Smith as of July 29, 2023.


The Town of Fort Smith used its emergency messaging system on Saturday to tell residents wildfires near the community are not currently a threat.

Fires to the north and southwest of the town appeared to move slightly closer over the past 24 hours, according to satellite monitoring of hot-spots.

Parks Canada says Fire 7 inside the park was approximately 10 kilometres from Highway 5 as of Saturday evening.

For part of the day, conditions were so intense that both Parks Canada ground crews and NWT government air tankers had to break off their work.



“Conditions improved later in the afternoon and helicopters are back bucketing the northwestern edge of Fire 7 until the end of operation period this evening,” Parks Canada wrote.

“The safety of fire personnel and the public is Parks Canada’s top priority in all fire management operations. We are focused on protecting fire personnel, the public, critical infrastructure and values in the area.”

Meanwhile, the NWT’s health authority said it was reducing some services and moving residents of the Northern Lights special care home out of the community “out of an abundance of caution.”

Those residents are being moved to Hay River. The Fort Smith Health Centre remains open for outpatient and emergency services, but inpatient admissions are suspended and new patients needing admittance will be transported elsewhere, depending on their condition.



“We emphasize that the measures in Fort Smith are precautionary and are being taken to ensure resources are available to undertake a complex move of long-term care patients,” the health authority stated.

Acknowledging several fires are “in close proximity to Fort Smith,” the town on Saturday told residents: “There is no immediate threat to the community and no evacuation order is in place. Citizens are directed to remain calm and ensure they are prepared for emergencies and possible evacuation.”

Fort Smith maintains an emergency alert system that lets people sign up for texts or emails when significant situations develop.

“Stay informed by visiting the town website, social media accounts, or bulletin boards around the community,” the town told residents.

“No further updates will be sent through this system unless conditions change or the wildfire threat has ended.”

The NWT’s wildfire agency, approached for comment, said by email: “At this time there is no concern for Fort Smith.”

Fires jointly covering burn areas of some 200,000 hectares have been burning north of the town for weeks, with crews currently working to protect the Taltson hydro dam at the fires’ eastern flank.