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Hay River evacuation will be ‘weeks,’ town manager says

The Hercules departing Hay River on an evacuation flight. Photo: Town of Hay River
A Hercules aircraft departing Hay River on an evacuation flight. Photo: Town of Hay River

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As the evacuation of Hay River nears the one-week mark, the town’s senior administrative officer says it will be weeks until residents can return home.

“We’re not anywhere close to letting people into the community,” Glenn Smith said on Saturday afternoon.

He stressed it’s still unsafe for people to return due to the fire risk. There are no services for residents in town, including gas, groceries or healthcare, with the focus on firefighting efforts.

Rain and overcast conditions in recent days helped on several fronts, Smith said, including strengthening logistics and aerial attacks.

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The upcoming week is expected to be more challenging, with hot and dry conditions increasing fire activity.

“Next week is certainly going to be a lot of little flare-ups and activity,” Smith said. “Hopefully we make it through the week OK.”

In an update on Saturday morning, the town said 20 firefighters from Ontario had arrived in Hay River to help. Smith said the military is expected soon.

“With the military resources that hopefully are coming in next week and recognizing there’s competition for resources across this country right now, you know, we’re hopeful that people continue to fight for us,” he said.

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In the coming days, Smith said some of the most important work will be attacking the fire, which has a large perimeter and lots of areas to cover. What that may look like will depend on conditions.

Residents of Hay River, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Enterprise and Jean Marie River were forced to evacuate on Sunday due to the quickly moving wildfire.

The Town of Hay River said that fire moved approximately 39 kilometres, devastating Enterprise and damaging properties in Paradise Gardens.

In an internal document, GNWT officials on Saturday estimated around 100 residents currently remain in Hay River.

Ollie Williams contributed reporting.