North of Yellowknife, air tankers and helicopters completed drops on Saturday focused on the southeast corner of fire ZF011 – the hottest point – to limit growth to the south and prepare for Monday, when the wind is expected to be at its strongest.
“A couple of extremely challenging days ahead,” NWT Fire stated on Saturday night, referring to fires around Yellowknife. “Extremely high westerly to southwesterly winds [on Sunday] – 35-40 km/h, gusting up to 60 – will put pressure on our lines and cause extreme fire behaviour and likely significant fire growth.”
Dettah will host a community meeting about fire response at 3pm on Sunday, focused on fire ZF085, burning around 30 km southeast of the community.
In Fort Smith, residents were told to leave the town by the end of Saturday if possible, with no guarantee that the highway to safety could be held open through Sunday and beyond.
As of 10am on Sunday, Highway 5 remained open according to the NWT government, but Parks Canada’s fire crews warned anyone left to be ready for “extended delays or closures.”
Some people have stayed in Fort Smith to maintain essential services and protect the community. Preparations are being made for those people to shelter in place at the town’s rec centre should the fire reach Fort Smith in the days ahead.
“If you have not evacuated the area of Fort Smith yet, please do so now,” the town’s protective services team stated on Sunday morning.
Many Fort Smith residents have headed to Hay River, where an evacuation centre is open. Smith’s Landing First Nation told members to head for High Level.
“It’s been a long day, with a lot of fear and emotion,” the First Nation stated late on Saturday, thanking residents for their “patience, understanding, and support throughout this time.”