Cots for evacuees at Yellowknife's multiplex in 2022. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The City of Yellowknife revealed details on Tuesday of where residents in the western part of the city may be relocated if evacuation is required.
The city issued an evacuation alert on Tuesday for residents in the Kam Lake Industrial Area and the Grace Lake neighbourhood, as well as the Engle Business District, due to potential threats from a wildfire burning to the west of Yellowknife.
City Hall said people in those areas should be prepared to leave on short notice but do not need to do so unless the alert is upgraded to an evacuation order.
City officials said if that does happen, there are several places in Yellowknife where affected residents may stay.
Mayor Rebecca Alty said during a press conference that if an evacuation order is issued, the city will open an evacuation centre in Yellowknife’s multiplex. The city facility has already hosted wildfire evacuees from Hay River, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Behchokǫ̀ and Wekweètì this summer.
The mayor said the multiplex has been chosen as the primary destination for evacuees as it is a non-combustible structure with little vegetation around it. She said the building would also be protected by sprinklers if an evacuation order is issued for Yellowknife.
Charlsey White, the city’s director of planning and development, told Cabin Radio and CBC there are 64 lots and approximately 192 people in Grace Lake and roughly 200 people and lots in Kam Lake. She said the multiplex can accommodate 336 people and the fieldhouse 300 people.
She said the city is also considering other buildings to host evacuees if more space is required.
Alty said affected residents could also stay with friends or family or at hotels in the city.
The city also has a plan for people with pets so, if they are evacuated, they have the option to “keep their fur babies and their family all together.”
White said the city plans to offer space adjacent to Rotary Park and the Old Town parking lot for people to stay in campers and tents. She said the parking lot has pump-out services for sewage and is located across the street from a fenced-in area where people can safely take their pets.
City manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said around 60 spaces would be available in the parking lot and Rotary Park would be used as overflow if required.
White added the city is also looking at property near Bristol Pit among other locations if more space needed.
The city said people who choose to leave Yellowknife now, when an evacuation order has not been issued for any part of the municipality, will be responsible for their own accommodations and costs. Bassi-Kellett said there is currently “no contemplation” of an evacuation order being prepared.
In an update at 9:20pm on Tuesday, NWT Fire said wildfire ZF015 was burning 16 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife at its closest point, roughly four kilometres closer than reported shortly before noon. The wildfire agency said there was a risk to Yellowknife but the city and fire crews were doing “everything possible” to slow its spread.
Bassi-Kellett said the city, which is working to increase fire protection in areas of Yellowknife most at risk, is monitoring the wildfire closely.