“We’ve got health services there and our own staff to check people in. We’ve got cots set up and food in place there for when they arrive,” said Patrick Bergen, the Town of Hay River’s assistant senior administrator, describing what evacuees can expect at the rec centre.
“We are open until midnight tonight and then 8am again tomorrow morning. And then we’ll maintain an 8am till 10pm shift,” he added.
Initially, Hay River has made 150 cots available at the rec centre. More could be set up in the coming days if needed.
“We’ll see how many people show up tonight and then kind-of go from there,” said Bergen.
Only just over two months have passed since Hay River residents were allowed to return from their own evacuation. The town is still working on some of the longer-term recovery work from last year’s flooding, though it escaped this year’s wildfire threat mostly unscathed.
But work to prepare for a scenario like this began days ago, first when the tiny community of Kakisa to the southwest faced a possible evacuation, and more recently when the challenge facing Fort Smith became clearer.