The "Welcome to Enterprise" sign still stands amid burnt trees. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Technicians at Northwestel have begun working to fix multiple areas of damaged fibre line that are causing a near-total communications blackout in some evacuated communities.
Hay River and Fort Smith haven’t had internet, cell or land line service since Sunday, when thousands of people were forced to head south to Alberta to escape several wildfires.
The same fires have kept engineers away from the affected sites for days.
“Technicians have now accessed impacted sites along Highway 1 in southern NWT and begun repair work,” Northwestel, the dominant fibre internet provider in the North, said on Thursday.
“The fibre line is damaged in multiple areas and we expect it will take at least 24 hours or more to begin to restore service to South Slave communities. We are coordinating all work with NWT Fire to ensure technicians remain safe.”
Meanwhile, some low-Earth orbit satellites have been used to try to improve service in the Beaufort Delta, which has been slowed but not fully lost as a result of wildfire activity.
As work to fix systems happens, 120 Northwestel staff based in Yellowknife are evacuating along with the rest of the city. The territorial capital issued an evacuation order on Wednesday with a wildfire drawing near from the west.
“We have established a backup operational control centre in an alternate location to ensure we can continue to monitor and manage our northern network effectively,” the company stated.
As of 1pm on Thursday, Enterprise, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith, Hay River, Jean Marie River, Kakisa and High Level in Alberta have no service.
There is “congested” service in Inuvik, Tuktoyaktuk, Aklavik, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson.