An ignition operation meant to slow down sections of the Ingraham Trail fire. NWT Fire/Facebook
Territorial officials said Friday night that more than 19,000 people had evacuated from Yellowknife, Ndılǫ and Dettah.
Efforts to evacuate the more than 20,000 residents of the communities had continued hours past the deadline of the evacuation order.
Residents were told on Wednesday evening to get out by noon on Friday.
By 5pm on Friday, the city closed its vacant multiplex as an evacuation centre. It was unclear how many residents remained in Yellowknife.
“Residents are either sheltering in place in homes, or they have been evacuated,” the territorial government stated. “If your sheltering situation changes, please go to Sir John School to register for an evacuation flight.”
The territorial government said evacuation centres in Calgary were “quickly reaching capacity” and remaining evacuation flights were headed to Winnipeg.
Elsewhere, the towns of Hay River and Fort Smith – both evacuated days earlier, though some 200 people remain in Hay River – managed to last a further 24 hours without reported damage from fires mere kilometres away.
Hay River’s fire is 10 kilometres to the south, while the Fort Smith fire is four kilometres to the west.
The communities of Kakisa and Jean Marie River, to the west, also remain under evacuation orders over separate wildfires.
If you have updates to contribute – offers of help, news about organizations or groups, or shoutouts you’d like to give to people who are helping – send them to us by email. You can also use this form on our website. Please also get in touch if you are an evacuee and are happy to talk to us about what’s happening or share photos and video, and it’s safe to do so.
If our coverage is helping and you’re safe to take some time doing less important things, you can support us with monthly donations through Patreon.
Updates appeared below, the most recent first. Refresh the page for the latest. All times are in MT.
22:41 – This concludes live coverage for the time being. The final word goes to Sara, who writes:
“I want to give a shoutout to all the firefighters, first responders, people working on fire breaks, people rescuing animals, people feeding work crews, pilots flying people out, the workers at Big River, volunteers at the evacuation centres and so many more than I can name here.
“The kindness of strangers has really made people come together during this time. I want to also give a shoutout to the province of Alberta for sheltering us, feeding us, and offering incredible emotional support during such a scary and unpredictable time. This won’t be forgotten. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
22:38 – A lot of people are asking if they need to register at an evacuation centre even if they register online with the GNWT. Short answer: no.
Long answer, direct to me from the GNWT earlier:
When people arrive in Alberta AND NEED ACCOMMODATION, register online and register at an evacuation centre.
When people arrive in Alberta and DO NOT NEED ACCOMMODATION, they do not need to register with Alberta. The GNWT would like them to register online so it has numbers and contact information for evacuees. “This contact information will be super helpful when we start trying to organize residents’ return.”
22:34 – Our weekend coverage plans.
There will be no live updates page. I recognize this has been relied on over the past few days but with so many people safely out and hopefully into at least some form of temporary accommodation, the main purpose has been served. We will switch to our regular format of breaking-news story publication the moment something important occurs.
Frankly, you need to process and so do we. No refreshing all weekend. Check in every hour or two and the top of our homepage will have anything new.
However: our evacuee support pages will be continually updated.
These resources ARE still needed and providing a valuable public service. Our guide to getting out, guide to where to stay, and guide to other supports will be maintained 7am-7pm daily. The last one will include financial assistance advice as it becomes available, and we anticipate that guide remaining important and evolving for a long time to come.
From next week: Hopefully starting Monday, our morning show team will air a live video show (probably on YouTube, given the Meta ban) from 8am MT. We’ll confirm this once we’re sure everyone who’d need to be involved is safe and rested.
We did the same during Covid. The aim will be to provide a morning listening and viewing experience that unites all our many host communities, so we can stay together even though we’re apart. No matter which NWT community you’re from – or anywhere else in the world! – we’ll have up to an hour of live chat, entertainment, interviews and updates from Wheeler, Lekter, me, AJ, Megan, Shannon and all of our many friends of the Cabin.
If at any point we need to, we will ramp back up to live coverage without hesitating.
22:07 – In a moment, I’ll run you through our weekend coverage plans. First, this from Katie:
“If any Great Slave Animal Hospital clients forgot their pets’ medication while evacuating or are afraid they’ll run out, they can contact me and I can send them prescriptions to be filled wherever they happen to be. Will just need their full name, their pet’s name, the name of the medication, and the dosage/frequency the pet is taking. (Still looking into whether I can offer the same for non-GSAH clients given the situation, will update when I know!)”
21:44 – Wonderful shoutout, this, from Deborah:
“George Bugghins, KFN member and one of the good guys that goes above and beyond! George exudes safety and calm for all of us who are associated with the KFN reserve. As the principal of Chief Sunrise Education Centre, we adore George. He’s our ‘go-to’ person who is always there for us and continues to do so through Every. Single. Crisis!
“He was there for us during the flood, and now TWO wildfire evacuations. George Bugghins, we love you! MAHSI CHO! You are the best role model for our students! I am honoured to know you and call you my friend!”
(During an evacuation, you can forgive this many exclamation points from a school principal.)
21:35 – I’m no spokesperson for the NWT but I am safe in saying on behalf of all of us, thoughts with the Okanagan tonight. Nobody here wants anyone else to have to experience this.
21:33 – Tell me that’s not the most glorious storm drain footage you’ve ever watched.
21:28 – The scene in the city.
21:26 – It’s raining in Yellowknife, consistently so, and this has brought a deluge in my inbox. It’s a nice way to end a Friday.
21:01 – The fact that Highway 3 and Highway 1 (and the Fort Providence gas stations and community) held it together for three days under that pressure is a miracle, and a testament to everyone involved. None of us caused the most embarrassing car accident of our lives! Yay!
20:57 – I realize this remains an ongoing crisis and there is a lot about that evacuation that went significantly wrong, the lineup for the airlift yesterday being an obvious example, but I think most Yellowknifers would have taken “19,000 people safe by Friday” if it had been offered on Wednesday.
20:55 – Oh hello. It’s Ollie. Fancy seeing you here. Just nipping outside to tell the BBC World Service that whaddayaknow, we may actually have just carried out a pretty successful-looking major drop-everything evacuation.
20:44 – Okay Ollie is about to take over. Good night. Take care of yourselves and try to get some rest.
20:34 –While evacuees fled the NWT, people at Indian Cabins – a popular rest stop heading south – began their own evacuation on Friday evening.
20:32 –A shoutout in our inbox from Cornelius Carmody to High Level:
“I know most folks are just passing through the town on the way to bigger cities south, but me and my parents are staying here in the green zone they’ve provided for people to camp in and they’ve been phenomenal.”
He says the arena has been set up for evacuees with:
Round the clock food for everyone, including hot made breakfast and dinner, and tons of snacks
Medical supplies, diapers and baby food, and a table full of donated clothes for kids
A rink full of cots for folks who need them
Even have both wet cat food and small bags of dog food
He says folks from High Level have also passed out games to keep evacuees entertained, locals have offered homemade food and the UFA station has been providing free gas.
“High Level has been so amazing to us, just wanted to make sure that was known.”
Carmody has also included some pet pics.
20:17 – Here’s Ollie’s full report on what was said at the press conference just now. Bottom line: the GNWT and city think it was a successful evacuation, even though around 2,000 residents who could have evacuated appear not to have done so.
19:55 – From Ollie: No matter which NWT community you had to leave, don’t expect to come back any time in the next little while. Various officials at this press conference just outlined a complex range of factors that are going to go into when people can come home. Obviously, in Yellowknife’s case, it’s very early – we still don’t know how the fire will behave over the weekend, and it is nowhere near being definitively out (it’s a very large fire).
19:43 – The remaining 39 patients at the hospital are understood to be heading out this evening.
19:42 – We can now confirm some Stanton patients are now on a medevac plane (we’ve seen a photo from on board).
19:41 – We now have THREE guides for evacuees from the NWT wildfires:
19:40 – Westwick continues: “The risk has fallen that [the fire] will reach the city through this weekend, but we’ve got a couple of tough days ahead in terms of winds … I’m not ready to over-reassure on this front.”Westwick continues: “The risk has fallen that [the fire] will reach the city through this weekend, but we’ve got a couple of tough days ahead in terms of winds … I’m not ready to over-reassure on this front.”
19:36 – More from Mike Westwick at NWT Fire: “The reality is that the way the fire was progressing, and what we were looking at in terms of weather, suggested that this fire could be much closer right now if we didn’t have those successful days of suppression and a bit of help from the weather.
More from Mike Westwick at NWT Fire: “The reality is that the way the fire was progressing, and what we were looking at in terms of weather, suggested that this fire could be much closer right now if we didn’t have those successful days of suppression and a bit of help from the weather.
“The latest forecasts are showing that we’re looking at west winds, hot temperatures, no rain come Sunday, once again. Lower levels of moisture, there. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’re dealing with a very big fire.”
19:33 – Shane Thompson acknowledges that the tone of today’s assessment is “a bit better.”
“The work that is being done in the evacuation by the time has been amazing. Are we there yet? No. But we’re still doing a great job,” he said.
“It’s good news across the NWT. We’re starting to see some traction, some better results. I’m more optimistic today than I was yesterday.”
19:25 – From Ollie watching the press conference: I would say the tone of this press conference, in the opening statements, is significantly more positive than any other this week.
The city says a bear is wandering Finlayson Drive and is heading toward Deh Cho Boulevard, in case you’re still in town.
19:21 – Speaking to Yellowknifers who have already left, Mayor Rebecca Alty cautioned that they should expect a “rollercoaster” as there was no telling how long people might have to be away. “Unfortunately, the journey isn’t done yet. The fire continues to approach and the uncertainty of when you’ll be able to return will be difficult,” she said.
19:16 –Westwick says conditions were also favourable in Fort Smith and Hay River today, with little fire movement.
19:15 – Updates on the press conference from Ollie
Shane Thompson opens the GNWT press conference: “Our best estimate indicates that we have evacuated over 19,000 people from Yellowknife in less than 48 hours.”
More from Shane Thompson: “As more first responders evacuate, themselves, it becomes even more dangerous for residents who are choosing to stay. If you’re still in Yellowknife and you are not essential to the emergency response, please evacuate, Arrange to drive out or go to Sir John Franklin school to get on a flight out of the city. It is a real possibility the highway and the airport could be compromised by this wildfire, so please get out now.”
Shane Thompson: “I’m inspired by the incredible efforts undertaken by everybody to successfully evacuate thousands and thousands of residents in a matter of days.”
“We got a little bit of help from weather for the first time in a while. It was cooler than forecast with some cloud cover and higher levels of moisture in the air, which put a damper on fire activity for much of the day,” says NWT Fire’s Mike Westwick. But there wasn’t any rain. “Initial assessments are these fires haven’t moved too much today.”
19:12 –From friend of the Cabin Shannon Moore in Edmonton:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived at the evacuation centre set up in the Edmonton Expo Centre around 6pm on Friday evening. He toured the designated dining area and sat down to talk with evacuees, including Diana Neill and her family.
“He asked how long it took to drive, expressing concern. Took a minute to sit and chat. It was nice, but doesn’t take away from the fact I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight… so many unknowns, still,” Diana said.
The family was on a road trip out of the territory as the fire situation became more serious. They didn’t make it back to Yellowknife before the evacuation notice.
Minister Caroline Wawzonek escorted the PM, as well as Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and Alberta Minister of Children and Family Services MLA Searle Turton.
19:07 – If an evacuation order falls in a cut-off forest, does anyone hear it? Kakisa residents were told to leave, but it’s not clear if or when they actually knew. Our reporter Aastha tried to find out more.
18:56 – The Canadian Armed Forces have increasingly played a role in the NWT’s wildfire crisis. Sarah put together this photo gallery from the operation throughout the week.
18:52 –More from Ollie on telecommunications services.
18:48 – This just in from Northwestel: “Internet, phone and cellular service has been restored in Enterprise, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith and Hay River NWT as well as High Level, Alberta. Temporary repairs are in place and we continue to work to restore the remaining communities. We want to thank the technicians who have worked in very difficult conditions to complete this important work.
18:46 – We just received a message from Cassandra in Jasper who says staff there have not heard about free passes to national parks for NWT residents. (I have reached out to Parks Canada but likely won’t hear back today since it’s late).
18:40 – We just received a message that evacuees with prescriptions at the Yellowknife Co-op pharmacy can request that they be sent to local pharmacies. Please be patient with them if you do. You can contact the pharmacy at email@example.com.
Also – Emily here – huge shoutout to the Co-op for continuing to serve people in Yellowknife and beyond. The food store and gas bar will stay open from 8am to 4pm for essential workers tomorrow.
18:30 – Update from Northwestel: Technicians have been able to repair significant sections of the damaged fibre line in the South Slave. There are more sections that need repairing before service is restored.
All Northwestel employees from Yellowknife, and their immediate families, are accounted for. Some are in Whitehorse, where Norhtwestel has established an alternate operational control centre.
18:26 – CBC North will have a livestream of the upcoming press conference.
Thanks to CBC North for live streaming pressers throughout the week. I know many of us from the NWT have been watching them and it has made me feel a little more connected despite the many kilometres between us.
18:06 – From Ollie: Cell service is restored in Fort Smith, confirmed by Dianna Korol, who says she just placed a call.
18:02 – While I have a few seconds I want to express my thanks to Fort Providence and the folks at Big Service. They have been working non-stop to make sure evacuees traveling by road have gas among other necessary services. They also worked tirelessly to help residents that were affected by other evacuation orders this summer.
Also thank you to the countless NWT residents, communities, essential workers and volunteers doing everything they can to support evacuees and stop the growth of wildfires.
17:48 – This just in from Koodo (Telus has sent customers the same message):
17:37 – A shout to Don Wall, owner of Canadian Helicopters who Grace Osed says booked a Ken Borek DC3 for Acasta Heliflight families.
“This flight took my cats too, who would have been otherwise stuck in Yellowknife,” she says. “Big relief for us. The flight has been booked since Wednesday night at least.”
Osted says this is the second flight Wall has booked for Acasta this year.
“Some of those families would have had a hard time leaving otherwise as their partners are in remote locations.”
17:30 –Amanda Blair, who has just arrived in Jasper, has messaged us to say any evacuees headed to a national park should let staff know you are from the NWT and you can get a free five-day pass.
17:27 – From Cabin Radio’s inbox: Aingeal Stone shared this photo of her husband Harry Jacobs and Laila, one of six dogs they have evacuated with.
“We are less than two hours from the Edmonton Evacuation Centre. It has been two long days on the road with our six dogs. Laila is feeling a little insecure with all this evacuating business and has to have physical contact with her daddy.”
17:22 – We have confirmation that there will be a GNWT press conference at 7pm. Stay tuned.
The City of Yellowknife has said it will host a live webcast.
17:21– From Ollie: We’ve just had one or two people text us that their cell service is returning in the South Slave. We don’t yet have formal confirmation of that though.
17:09 – From Ollie: NWT airlift evacuees are now being sent to Manitoba as Alberta’s many host communities continue to fill up.
Even Calgary’s evacuation centres are “quickly reaching capacity,” the GNWT said at 5pm.
“Evacuees who are travelling by road and have yet to reach an evacuation centre should check the Government of Alberta’s website to find the most recent list of evacuation centres that has capacity and is still accepting new evacuees,” a spokesperson told Cabin Radio.
Remaining evacuation flights are going to Winnipeg. “Information about the location of evacuation centres in Winnipeg will be available shortly,” we’re told.
17:03 – And with that, over to Emily for continued live coverage into the evening.
17:00 – Our assistant editor Emily Blake has arrived here in Fort Simpson. Cabin Radio is now brought to you by Lady Slipper Lodge, which is hosting both of us (and a dog, two cats and my partner) for free indefinitely, in an incredible act of charity.
When we’re through all of this and you want a staycation, come give Lady Slipper Lodge your business. They’re doing us a huge favour at short notice and have made a huge effort to make us welcome and care for us.
16:47 – The City of Yellowknife says it’ll offer a live webcast of tonight’s 7pm GNWT press conference.
I didn’t actually know there was a press conference tonight (although it makes sense) so am just double-checking that with the GNWT.
16:35 – From Caitlyn: “Big shoutout to KBL for chartering a aircraft for their employees, families and animals to get everyone out safely.”
16:27 – From Kathleen: “Driving between Whitecourt and Edmonton has very heavy rain. The highway is quite busy and the spray off other vehicles is quite bad in spots.”
(If the elements could just not, that would be great.)
16:25 – Yellowknife is closing its multiplex as an evacuation centre at 5pm. It’s empty.
“Residents are either sheltering in place in homes, or they have been evacuated,” the GNWT states. “If your sheltering situation changes, please go to Sir John School to register for an evacuation flight.”
16:17 – Northwestel just issued an update. Crews are still working to repair the fibre line in the South Slave but there remains no firm timeline for when that’ll happen. “There are more sections to repair before service in the region is restored.”
16:15 – Anyone thinking “I could have sworn the deadline was noon,” it’s not like an alarm goes off and everyone shrugs and says, “dang, guess the rest of us stay then.” Evacuation efforts continue, including the airlift.
Having said that, our email traffic regarding people on Highway 3 has slowed to a trickle, and I am told the airlift has not seen the numbers that staff were expecting. That could mean people decided to stay, or it could mean they found rides out.
If you are only just heading out by road or you just got to Edzo or Fort Providence, send me an update on conditions and how it feels to be racing out of town post-deadline.
16:05 – From Keith, re the much-maligned Air Canada:
“I was on the extra Air Canada flight to Vancouver yesterday. Everyone at the airline was great. Baggage, food and drinks were free and the flight ticket was reasonable. Just want to give a shout out to the airline and all the airport staff.”
(I posted about this yesterday but since I had to interrupt a Toronto radio host live on-air this morning about this, I’ll post again: the $4,000 ticket thing that went viral wasn’t reeeeally true, see yesterday’s live for the explanation. Air Canada did not suddenly start charging $4,000 to milk evacuees.)
15:56 – From Amanda:
“Road out of Yellowknife was good this am (9:30). No line up for gas in Fort Providence. Visibility good throughout. Also, mad props to all the partners who drove out solo yesterday with kids. Mine especially.”
15:47 – This just in from Bell to various people’s phones. I know Virgin Mobile customers also got it.
15:35 – We will of course bring you updates on the wildfire situation in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and other communities as we get them. At this point, I am a firm believer that no news is good news. No news ever again would be great, you know? I think I might have had all the news, now.
15:31 – Somebody somewhere wrote to us about what happens if you seek shelter in BC. I cannot for the life of me find the message to respond directly. Here is the response from the GNWT, I just asked:
“At this time there are no centres in BC. If you are in BC there is no access to government supports. This is all at this time.”
15:23 – The Prime Minister, who I’m sure loves any reason to visit Alberta, will be at the Edmonton evacuation centre tonight, per CBC News. From what I’m hearing about the pace at which evacuees are being processed, he may want to get a desk and start assigning some hotel rooms.
15:21 – From Steph: “Blue Star Thrift Store in Peace River is giving free clothing to all NWT evacuees. You have to let them know at the checkout you are an NWT evacuee and they will give you a short form to fill out.”
Starting to really, really like Albertans.
15:20 – Not to big up this horse story (see 13:48) but I think it’s going to help your mood.
14:48 – Canada Post says mail and parcels destined for Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith are being held in Edmonton.
14:45 – This is new from Amazon: “The safety of our customers, employees and partners is our first priority. We’re closely monitoring the situation in the Northwest Territories, and we’ll communicate directly with customers regarding any changes to their expected deliveries. Amazon’s Customer Service is also available 24/7 to help with any questions about customer orders.”
14:37 – The federal government held a briefing about the NWT evacuation today that nobody federally bothered telling us was happening or inviting us to attend. I am reprinting Globe and Mail reporter Kristy Kirkup’s summary, noting as I do that Globe staff have been on our side and reaching out to help throughout this, and we thank them huge amounts for that. Follow Globe and Mail live updates on the fires here.
At a virtual news briefing, Defence Minister Bill Blair said the first military evacuation flight from Yellowknife took place on Thursday night on board a Hercules aircraft that carried 79 long-term-care residents to Edmonton.
Mr. Blair said the military has aircraft capable of moving patients, such as those on a stretcher or in a wheelchair, as well as medical personnel.
“The logistics of moving people from the hospital, we had to make sure that we had the right equipment, but also the right personnel so that it can be done safely,” Mr. Blair said. “The logistics of that have been worked out.”
Mr. Blair noted that the evacuation of Fort McMurray in 2016 evolved more rapidly and with a greater sense of urgency. “The fires that are encroaching on Yellowknife, there’s still ongoing efforts to slow the encroachment and the advance of those fires into the community,” he said. “But I think officials, quite appropriately, have been working very carefully to ensure that there was a methodical, staged and appropriately timed evacuation of people from the community.”
The Canadian Armed Forces is providing logistical support for territorial authorities and local firefighting crews, Mr. Blair said, noting that Canadian Rangers are assisting with evacuees at the Yellowknife airport.
14:32 – I cannot tell you the hollow sensation of writing these bits of information that are basically survival tips for 20,000 displaced friends. A large part of me is mortified that this is real.
14:31 – Meanwhile, Jill sends us this from Edmonton:
“The Edmonton evacuation centre is moving super slow at the moment. We got here at 11:30am (half hour before it opened). Got through registration in a half hour but then got sent to register with Red Cross – had to write our name on a handwritten numbered list where they are calling people in order for registration. They started calling numbers at 12:30.
“Now almost 2 hours later they are only through about 17 people. Even once you’ve registered with Red Cross, they aren’t able to get you a hotel room right away – need to wait more, an indefinite amount of time at this point while they figure out a system I guess? Super grateful for all the volunteers but I think the system will need some work if they are going to get through everyone. We are number 89 on the list so still here waiting and hopeful.”
14:26 – People who got to Red Deer also really like it there, I have heard great things about their efforts. Here is Red Deer’s page.
14:25 – If your final destination is Alberta, then Calgary – despite the distance – is a good place to aim for, because a lot of smaller places are already helping everyone they can help. When you get to Calgary, go to a reception centre first and take it from there. Scroll down on our evac supports page, there is a whole Calgary section including reception centre info.
14:20 – OK, let’s see how we’re doing. Who is still on the road in the NWT? If you are on Highway 3 right now, either in Edzo, say, or Fort Providence – or even just setting off from Yellowknife – can you check in with me please when safe to do so? I’d like to know what the road is like for fire, smoke, traffic and fuel availability, and how you’re feeling about your evacuation so far.
14:18 – I mean, she used a hyphen next to each time stamp when it’s supposed to be an en-dash but I’m gonna overlook that.
14:17 – This is Ollie taking over for the afternoon and into the evening. Can we take one moment and give Sarah Pruys a standing O for eight hours of live texting updates from 6am today, please?
13:55 – “I just want to give a huge shout out to Great Slave Helicopters who evacuated their staff on a charter today with all of our pets in the seats beside us,” says Katie, who also sent us this picture.
Katie also wants to thank Stephanie at Driving Force in Edmonton.
“[She] was able to help get us vans to move people from Edmonton to Calgary. Stephanie used to live in Hay River and she moved heaven and earth to get us what we needed.”
13:35 –THE MAP IS BACK! Ollie and our legendary map creator Tony Castillo, to whom we all owe a huge debt of thanks, have restored the Cabin Radio fire map. Now once again bringing you near-live mapping of the fire’s burn area and satellite hot-spots. We hope it helps!
13:33 – I’m passing this live off to Ollie soon, but I just want to take another moment to thank our news team at Cabin Team for their work over the past few days helping people across the NWT evacuate as safely and timely as possible. We’ve had people work incredibly long days both reporting and evacuating – one person even came back from vacation early to help out. Thank you so much Emily, Chloe, Megan, Aastha, and Emma!
13:24 – The United Way NWT has asked us to let everyone know they continue to operate safely from the south and that contact numbers and email addresses remain the same.
NWT and Southern-based organizations and Indigenous and community governments assisting NWT evacuees are eligible to apply for funding here. United Way NWT says it is promptly processing these requests.
“Funding is for urgent essential needs of NWT residents under evacuation orders for needs not being provided by other organizations,” wrote Chair David Connelly, adding 100 percent of donations are being distributed without deduction. You can donate here.
Organizations with large requests or donations should email the Emergency Response Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
12:54 – Global News reports Calgary is opening 2,000 hotel rooms for evacuees and is planning “compassionate room rates, relaxing rules on pets, expanding dining areas and payment plans for those who are expected to receive financial support from the government.”
Read the story by Global’s Megan Yamoah on Calgary’s evacuation centre, hotel rooms, and other supports here.
12:32 – Here’s the updated evacuation flight schedule out of Yellowknife for the rest of the day:
12:30am (Saturday, August 19)
12:24 – Evacuees board a Summit Air flight to Calgary on August 18, 2023. Photo: Trung Bui
12:17 – Federal Minister of Transport Pablo Rodriguez has granted exemptions to allow pilots to extend their flying hours to allow evacuation efforts to continue without interruption.
The feds are also allowing people to bring their pets on their flights and putting in place more flexible identification requirements for passengers who might have left their ID behind.
12:12 – Michael Ellison sent us this video of aircraft actioning the Yellowknife fire as he evacuated on Wednesday.
12:09 – More on NWT Fire’s update on the fires around Yellowknife from Megan here.
11:45 – There has been “minimal growth” on the Ingraham Trail fire, in part because good visibility allowed helicopters and airtankers to action the fire.
There is also a possibility this fire will reach the Ingraham Trail this weekend.
11:43 – Highway 3 is still open.
“Just because fire reaches the highway or is nearby does not necessarily mean it is unsafe. Highway managers are piloting drivers through fire zones to assure safe travel for evacuees and will be sure drivers are going through tough conditions safely,” says NWT Fire.
11:37 – The fire threatening Yellowknife is now 15 km away from the Yellowknife municipal boundary and there is a possibility the fire reaches the outskirts of the city by the weekend due to forecast wind, said NWT Fire in its 11am Friday update.
“Critical, challenging days ahead – with two days of northwest to west-northwest winds on Friday and Saturday, which would push fire towards Yellowknife and the Ingraham Trail. Wind expected to range from 25-35km/h sustained, gusting up to 50km/h at times. These winds would push both the Behchoko/Yellowknife Fire and the Ingraham Trail to the east and south – which is where we don’t want them to be.”
11:33 – Fire mitigation work that was completed in Yellowknife as of 9pm yesterday.
Mayor Rebecca Alty on the different types of work:
“For Fire Breaks: Heavy equipment has been working hard to construct physical firebreaks (removing trees and vegetation) of 100 meters wide. This work has been extensive and approximately 15,000 meter or 150 hectares has been completed. That’s 150 hectares less fuel for the fire and a necessary break in the path.
For Water Distribution and Sprinklers: about 20,000 meters of pipe will be laid so sprinklers can be hooked up to a permanent and 24 hour water source. In total, the sprinklers are providing 1,000 gallons per minute and running 24 hours a day.
Although, we haven’t received rain this week, the sprinklers are soaking the west side of our community.”
11:29 – More on the Town of Inuvik withdrawing its evacuation notice from my colleague Megan here.
11:22 – If ANYONE needs a ride to Sir John in Yellowknife (the place to register for en evacuation flight and catch a bus to the airport), call (867) 444-0115. At first rides were only offered to people with physical challenges, but now anyone who needs a ride will get one.
11:18 – We’re told Matonabee Petroleum Petro-Pass Cardlock on Old Airport Road is remains open, with gas and diesel available.
11:18 – From Sandy at Buffalo Air: “Buffalo Air Express is still operating our overnight cargo service into Yellowknife and have reserved aircraft capacity for fire fighting equipment. We have brought in over 35,000 lbs of fire fighting equipment over the last two days and with today being the last day in Edmonton where major stores are open, we’re hoping to get the word out to all the contractors that are here in YK can still ship from Edmonton tonight for the cargo to arrive tomorrow morning in YK.
“All cargo should be dropped off at our Buffalo Air Express terminal at 15204 131 Ave NW Edmonton. If they need freight picked up, pick up service is included. Call 1 (780) 455-1677 to reach our dispatchers.”
11:13 – There are 187 personnel, 21 helicopters, and 53 pieces of heavy equipment actioning the fire today near Fort Smith.
11:11 – Work in the Fort Smith area today includes establishing fire guard around Fort Fitzgerald and Smith’s Landing First Nation. Fire guards have been completed around Bell Rock and “around part of fire on the east side of Highway 5 near where the Salt River runs under the road.”
An old fire guard has also been reestablished “from west 40 at Highway 5 east of Fort Smith and has now been connected to the airport to aid in community protection.”
When safe, fire crews are also conducting micro-ignitions near Highway 5 and other areas “to gently bring the fire to natural fire break features.”
11:06 – Here’s some positive news about the Fort Smith fire, which is also being called the Wood Buffalo Complex, from Wood Buffalo National Park: “[The fire] is currently 408,803 hectares in size. At its closest, it is approximately 4km south of Fort Smith and 6km south of Fort Fitzgerald.
Thanks to the increased humidity and a change in wind direction the Wood Buffalo Complex wildfire has had minimal growth over the past three days. Yesterday, we received 2mm of precipitation in Fort Smith and this will buy us time to make good progress on the wildfire.”
10:59 – The Town of Inuvik is withdrawing its evacuation notice as the fire risk to the town “has been reduced significantly.”
The town credited NWT firefighters for their hard work safeguarding the community.
10:55 – There are still no lines at Sir John’s in Yellowknife for evacuation flights, so get there now if you need to get out on a plane to Calgary. If you need help getting to the high school, call (867) 444-0115 and you can arrange for the HandiVan to come and pick you up and help you get there.
10:50 – Northwestel is planning on getting a repair crew into Enterprise within the next few days to try and services back up and running.
10:49 – There are no planned evacuation flights out of Hay River on Friday and the highway into the town remains closed.
10:47 – In Hay River, cooler temperatures are forecast and should give fire crews some time to make more progress. There are 100 military members flying in to help, as well as 100 flying in.
Hay River Fire is working on suppressing fires and hotspots back from the highway.
Crews are going to focus on on tightening the fire (pushing a dozer guard along the fire’s edge) on the west side closer to Kakisa.
10:41 – Hay River continued: Fire smarting and sprinkler lines have been completed in Delancy Estates, and heavy equipment is working on the east side of the community across from Paradise Gardens to reduce that area’s risk. Aircraft actioning the fire were also able to fly yesterday.
10:38 – We’ve got a bunch of positive updates about Hay River for you. The area got 6mm and then 11am of rain, and north winds helped push the fire back where it had already burned. Both of these things helped restrict the fire’s growth.
This is the latest of three alleged arsons in the city since Tuesday, a terrifying prospect for residents who are already fleeing the lightning-caused fire ZF015, which is 15 kilometres west and being blown east.
9:27 – The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority say if you have a family member who was transferred to the care of the Alberta healthcare system, email AHS.ECC.Liaison@albertahealthservices.ca. This is the single point of contact for inquires.
9:24 – Here’s NWT Fire’s schedule for sharing information – in addition to any breaking emergency information – today:
Updates on the situation in North Slave/Yellowknife twice a day: one earlier in the day, the other at the end of the day.
An update on Fort Smith in the late morning/early afternoon. If the situation changes there will be a second update as well.
An update on Hay River in the late morning/early afternoon. If the situation changes there will be a second update as well.
An update on the situation outside of Inuvik.
We’ll bring you these updates as soon as we get them!
9:19 – Bassett Petroleumjust messaged us and said their location at 139 Curry Drive in Yellowknife has the cardlock open.
“If you don’t have an account come by during office hours 8am-5pm to get your car filled. Debit/credit only. We have limited staff but will be open.”
9:14 – Alberta Parks says anyone under a mandatory evacuation order can camp for free for up to 10 nights.
Don’t just show up at a campsite though – first, register as an evacuee online or at a reception centre. Then call Alberta Parks at 1 (877) 537-2757 between 9am and 5pm to get a campsite. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Existing campsite reservations are not cancelled.
9:09 – Pets are permitted on all flights! However, if it’s with a commercial carrier, then they must be in a crate (however, pets can come in the cabin on leash on Canadian North evac flights). If it’s on the Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft, they should ideally be crated but if that’s not possible then “cats must be harnessed, dogs must be leashed and both must be held as close as possible at all times. Other pets must be contained in appropriate cages,” says the GNWT, which has also started an updates page here.
9:07 – From the people at Sir John: We have more flights today and things are moving much quicker so people need to get here to get a plane.
9:05 – Only bring a carry-on bag if you are flying out of Yellowknife on an evacuation flight. Bring a few days worth of clothing, as well as your medication, chargers, and documents such as ID and insurance. Bring some snacks and a water bottle, as there might be a long time between registering to evacuate and arriving at an evacuation destination.
9:02 – “If you have physical challenges and need support to get yourself to the registration centre at Sir John High School [to evacuate], call (867) 444-0115 and you can arrange for the HandiVan to come and pick you up and help you get there,” reads a GNWT update.
8:58 – Services that are still open in Yellowknife for essential workers who remain in the city. From the GNWT: Sutherland’s Drugs and the Yellowknife Co-op and Co-op Gas Bar (other gas stations are closed due to lack of staff or gas shortages).
8:54 – We’ve confirmed the Leduc Recreation Centre is full and that evacuees are being directed to Edmonton and Calgary evacuation centres instead.
The City of Edmonton is opening a temporary reception centre at the Edmonton EXPO Centre (7515 118 Avenue NW in Hall C) on Friday, August 18, at noon. The city is advising evacuees to go directly to the reception centre upon arrival in Edmonton. The centre is providing temporary lodging, food services, clothing, animal care and health care.
The City of Calgary announced they are committed to helping as many as 5,000 evacuees find shelter and additional supports, including mental health supports, according to a news release. A reception centre is being set up at the Calgary International Airport for people flying in, and after 2pm, there will be a reception centre at the Westin Calgary Airport hotel for those driving. Emotional and wellness support teams will also be present. The City is working with partners to accommodate pets with shelter and supplies as needed.
8:46 – We’ve got a message in our inbox from Erica (who is travelling with a parrot) that there are little to no pet-friendly Vrbo or AirBnb places available in Alberta right now.
8:41 – The GNWT says 3,699 southbound vehicles were tracked on the Deh Cho Bridge on Thursday, so the total number of vehicles that have crossed during the first two days of the North Slave evacuation is 5,118.
As the GNWT said, this number does not capture anyone who evacuated to a Tłı̨chǫ community instead of heading south of Fort Providence.
8:33 – We’re aware of an issue with our fire map this morning and working to get it fixed. We’ll keep you updated with any significant changes involving the NWT’s various fires right here.
8:28 – Just in from Emily, who is in Fort Providence: there is a sign on the road saying there is no gas in town at the Northern Store right now, just at Big River Service Centre.
8:03 – “Past Behchokǫ̀. No fire on the highway. Very little traffic so far. Very little smoke. Feeling a sigh of relief! The cat has finally stopped meowing!” Says Tammy, who evacuated from Yellowknife this morning.
We’re relieved to hear highway conditions are looking good this morning.
8:01 –More from Ollie as the GNWT says flights are leaving but nobody’s in line to take them.
7:59 – We just had a call from the GNWT. This is really urgent. If you need a flight out, get down to the school now because there is nobody there and they are ready!
“Flights are going, there is not enough people to get on them,” Ollie was told by phone just now. “Get to Sir John. Flights are going.”
7:41 – I think this is the first evacuating tortoise we’ve seen. This is Pilkington, a red footed tortoise who is visiting Alberta for the first time with Peter.
7:35 – While travelling yesterday, I missed seeing that Kakisa is also evacuating, so I’ve looked at the numbers again and we’re up to approximately 28,940 NWT residents under evacuation order. That’s just over 63 percent of territory’s population.
7:27 – “The highway will remain open southbound as long as it is safe to do so,” said NWT Fire on Facebook early this morning, responding to a question asking if Highway 3 will close at noon on Friday (the time when people have been ordered to evacuate by).
7:22 – If you’re just getting on the road from Yellowknife or you’re just reaching safety, let us know the highway conditions whenever it’s safe to do so. Was it smoky? Was there fire? Was there traffic? Was there gas? All information helps those behind you. Email email@example.com and let’s get everybody out and safe.
7:21 – The GNWT says the MV Lafferty ferry to Fort Simpson is running all day today until 2am on Saturday to help people getting to Fort Simpson as a safe place. It’ll then reopen at 8am on Saturday.
7:13 – Here’s a photo of High Level at 7am this morning from Brittany. She reports about 50 cars pulled over and slept on the side of the road near the NWT-Alberta border last night before carrying on this morning.
6:57 – New on our website: See the evacuation through the eyes of our reporters and Yellowknife residents. Keep sending your photos and video, when it’s safe to do so, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
6:52 – Approximately 63 percent of the NWT population is currently under evacuation order, if we use the most recent community population numbers provided by the NWT Bureau of Statistics. That’s about 28,904 residents, though this number doesn’t account for non-residents such as tourists or people here on short work contracts whose home province is elsewhere and would also be evacuating the NWT right now.
6:42 – For evacuees in Edmonton, we’ve heard the Telus World of Science is offering free admission to all NWT evacuees. They are encouraging people to bring their NWT ID with them to get in, but understand you might not have it in these circumstances.
6:32 – Another shout-out, this time to Red Deer.
Katie says, “I have evacuated to Red Deer and wanted to let you know that they have an incredible evacuation center. There’s great signage, staff are incredibly friendly and everything is seamlessly organized. They are offering evacuees hotels for themselves and pets, free city transportation passes for the bus, free access to all city recreation centers and meal tickets that are accepted at various locations around town. In addition they are providing petsonal hygiene items and items for pets.”
6:30 – Big shout-out to Fort Providence from Jacqueline in our inbox, which I’ll share in full as it will help people know what to expect:
“We can’t say enough great things about the Fort Providence community – they are so organized and keeping the minimal lines for gas running smoothly. We reached the intersection before the turn into Fort Providence just before 6pm, with the Big River Service Center up ahead, and they had community members in high-vis directing the flow of traffic (in the rain).
“They’re stopping and asking each car what they need and if it’s gas, they’re divvying up the cars between the two gas stations: either sending you forward to join the Big River line, or directing some folks to turn into Fort Providence for gas at the Northern Store.
“Once it’s your turn at the Northern Store (just follow the cars), two (of the most pleasant and upbeat) attendants gas you up and give you a piece of paper – take that, park nearby, pay inside (cash only). Super easy. Because they have people directing traffic, the lines for both Big River and for the Northern Store are a bit more equal.”
6:24 – While there were long line-ups for gas at Big River Service Centre in Fort Providence on Thursday, by Thursday night arond 10pm traffic has slowed. The Department of Infrastructure told us their staff had counted just three vehicles waiting around 10pm.
6:21 – Air Tindi said grocery flights and flights to other communities went ahead on Thursday and will continue on Friday and as required into the future, even if Air Tindi can’t be in Yellowknife.
Here’s Chris Reynolds, Air Tindi’s president:
“Air Tindi elected to make the considerable decision to evacuate our employees, families and aircraft early [Wednesday]. We elected to make this grave decision to keep everyone safe, protect our business and ensure that our flight crews, maintenance control, operations control and administration staff were comfortable to evacuate any, and all from Yellowknife as well as continue to support our communities. Unfortunately this caused some disruption in service yesterday, but we are servicing all requests, communities and Yellowknife evacuees [Thursday] and ‘until the bitter end’ as required.”
6:16 – The Territorial Emergency Management Organization (Temo) organized flights for over 200 residents the need extra care, such as dialysis and chemotherapy patients, obstetrics patients in late-term pregnancy, seniors, people with disabilities and vulnerable residents on Thursday.
Temo also has a flight for 171 inmates and corrections officers out of Yellowknife.
6:14 – Late last night we heard from the GNWT that data on Deh Cho Bridge crossings is available once a day.
On Wednesday, August 16, 1,419 vehicles crossed the bridge – but remember the evacuation order only went out at 7:30pm, so that traffic might not be very reflective of the evacuation.
6:08 – Here’s the view at Hutch Lake Campground, says Samuel. Campground fees are being covered for evacuees. The campground is just north of High Level.
6:04 – Good morning! It’s Sarah here, reporting from Calgary starting Friday’s live updates on this page. I’ve got about 40 emails to go through – after clearing my inbox this morning – so I’ll see if there is anything important to share in there.