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As it happened: Wednesday updates for NWT wildfire evacuees

A fire crew member in Fort Smith. Photo: Epéchile Production
A fire crew member in Fort Smith. Photo: Epéchile Production


Our coverage of the NWT’s wildfire crisis continues as questions remain about how evacuees will be supported and, more than anything, how long people should plan to be away.

Officials continue to talk of timelines in weeks but say the wildfire situation outside Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith remains too volatile for any certainty about a return date.

Those fires were held outside their respective communities on Tuesday without coming significantly closer.

Read our quick summary of wildfire threat to get the latest on the fires in less than a minute of reading. And remember to bookmark our homepage for all of our coverage in one place.



Contact us:

  • We have guides to getting out, where to stay and everything else. Please, please check those thoroughly before writing to us
  • We are not the government but we will try to get you an answer if you ask us a question and we think the answer would help a sizeable number of evacuees
  • To ask a question, email us here
  • If you are offering assistance and don’t mind having details that you send us (including contact info) published, email that offer here – please also send information updates for evacuees using this link
  • To tell us about someone amazing who deserves a shoutout for what they’re doing or did, email us here
  • Send us photos and video of your experience by emailing us here

Reporters working on our continuing coverage are Ollie Williams, Emily Blake, Sarah Pruys, Megan Miskiman, Chloe Williams and Aastha Sethi. Our general manager, Andrew Goodwin, is in Yellowknife supporting efforts to build wildfire defences. If our coverage is helping and you’re able to support us, you can sign up for a small monthly donation that goes directly toward paying our staff.

Trying to find something specific? Search this page. Here’s how to search this page on desktop and how to do it on a phone.

Updates appeared below, latest first. All times are MT. Live coverage has ended.



Wednesday live text reporters: Ollie Williams in Fort Simpson and Sarah Pruys in Calgary. Thanks to Lady Slipper Lodge for hosting our Fort Simpson team!

19:50 – More from Ollie: “One is too many” at roadblocks, the GNWT said, stressing evacuees can be prosecuted for going home too soon. An official said “quite a few” people are trying.

19:41 – Wednesday’s press conference has wrapped up early. There will be no press conference tomorrow, but there will be one on Friday.

19:40 – Climate change, bad luck, and more fuel built up on the ground after a few quieter fire years have all contributed to this extreme fire season threatening so many communities, says Davey-Quantick.

19:38 – “We are getting consistent numbers of people throughout the day trying to get back into Yellowknife,” says Jeffrey Edison with the infrastructure department. He doesn’t have specific numbers, but says even one person trying to get in is too many because blocks and slows down traffic trying to bring in essential items like fuel, food, and medicine. 

Edison says there have not been many attempts of people trying to get through the Hay River barricade.

19:23 – “My understanding is that none of the public has returned because we are turning them way at different checkpoints,” says Jennifer Young, the emergency management organization’s information officer.

19:20 – Municipal governments are responsible for developing and publishing reentry plans for once the evacuation order lifts.



19:15 – “I know the big news everyone’s looking for is when we can come home. The answer is we need to be patient. Many of these fires haven’t moved in several days, and that’s really good news, but it does not mean the situation is safe,” says Jessica Davey-Quantick, wildfire information officer .

19:13 – While fire activity is increasing in the South Slave, Hay River’s fire is still eight kilometres away. Fort Smith’s fire is still four kilometres away – though the fire has grown toward Fort Fitzgerald.

Meanwhile, Yellowknife’s fire is still 15 km away.

19:11 – More than 320 people are working to fight the fires around Yellowknife, plus 14 helicopters and heavy equipment. However a lot of rain and cooler temperatures are needed to really make an impact on the fire.

19:06 – There is still capacity in Calgary and Edmonton evacuation centres. The GNWT is working on a daily flight evacuation schedule which will be published online. To register for one of these flights, call (867) 444-0115.

19:04 – Another night, another press conference. We’re starting with remarks from operations staff on emergency managment and wildfire managment.

18:41 – From the Yellowknives Dene First Nation:

“The Gosoomba dehshe Trust has agreed to provide emergency financial assistance to each Yellowknives Dene First Nation member who has had to evacuate because of wildfires; including children. The Trust is advancing $672,000 to YKDFN to be allocated to displaced members. YKDFN government is responsible for allocating and distributing the funds to Band membership.



“YKDFN is now working with its partners to finalize the next steps and processing of payments to members over the coming days. We appreciate the patience of our members as we work to provide financial benefits to all those who have been forced to evacuate their homes in Chief Drygeese Territory.”

18:28 – About half an hour till tonight’s press conference. I’ll be in the press conference for Cabin Radio (about two feet away from my partner Liny, who’ll be reporting for CBC North). Sarah will bring you live updates.

17:48 – Highway 3 between Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife has re-opened to southbound traffic after ignition operations were conducted this afternoon. No northbound access unless it’s an essential vehicle.

17:44 – Edmonton has opened a pop-up dog park purely for evacuees.

“To support evacuees with dogs, a pop-up dog park with fenced runs and a walking track for leashed dogs will be made available outside of the Edmonton Expo Centre. Registered evacuees can use the space from 9am to 8pm daily. This pop-up park is not open to other users,” reads a City of Edmonton press release. There are poop-bag dispensers, too.

Edmonton says it now has 5,233 residents and 458 pets from the NWT.

17:40 – There are a couple of fresh updates to our wildfire threat summaries. Nothing major, but we have 5pm updates for some areas.

17:18 – Update from the NWT’s health authority about arrangements for patients from Nunavut’s Kitikmeot who’d usually receive care in or via Yellowknife:



“Due to the evacuation order and fire-related risk in Yellowknife, Stanton inpatient and outpatient services were suspended, and the emergency department was closed to transfers from other communities.

“Nunavummiut who have urgent or emergent healthcare needs that would require the services of an air ambulance or medevac-type flight have continued access to these services via Nunavut’s bypass protocol. Nunavut healthcare providers are able to bypass Yellowknife and send air ambulance transports to southern facilities based on patient location and need. This could include transport to Alberta, to other sites within Nunavut or to other provinces.

“For non-urgent outpatient appointments that would usually have been accessed by Nunavummiut through Yellowknife’s specialty clinics, or diagnostic imaging departments, clinical review is under way to ensure that alternate care arrangements will be offered for any appointments that must not be delayed. The same process is being implemented for NWT residents who had been due to travel to Yellowknife for upcoming speciality appointments in NWT.

“NU clinical leadership is collaborating closely with NWT clinical leadership throughout this dynamic emergency. NU is continuing to handle medical travel arrangements for care that cannot be delayed.”

17:14 – A new Hay River update just came in.

Phone service is back, RCMP say no confirmed reports of looting or other issues. From NWT Fire: “While preliminary planning has begun for eventual return, at this time the evacuation order remains in place and it is not safe to return.”

The fire remains about eight kilometres from the south of Hay River. “Fire activity has increased in the southeast end of the fire since yesterday, requiring more assets to be deployed in that area. Vigorous fire activity is expected today compared to yesterday, under stronger wind and with continued high temperatures.”

17:02 – I was asked earlier if Yellowknife’s state of emergency was renewed. The answer is actually no, according to the city, because the territorial state of emergency trumps it.



From a city spokesperson:

“If the minister orders a declaration of a territorial state of emergency in respect of an area that is already affected by a declaration of a state of local emergency, the declaration of a state of local emergency is deemed to be cancelled. We are currently still under the territorial declaration of a state of emergency.”

16:27 – There have been multiple reports in our inbox today of people expressing concern that vehicles in parking lots at their hotels appear vulnerable to being targeted by thieves.

The link between having a polar-bear licence plate and having your vehicle broken into is not easy to prove but it’s probably wise, regardless of your plate, to move anything valuable out of your vehicle and into the safety of your accommodation.

(Says man who accidentally left bag containing partner’s wallet and passport in bed of truck, open to the elements, all night two nights ago.)

16:25 – A reminder to go watch this video of Yellowknife’s fire defences, narrated by the people who built them.

16:21 – The King writes in:

“My wife and I were desperately concerned to learn of the recent states of emergency declared in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia due to wildfires. We recall with great fondness our visit to Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories last year and we can only begin to imagine the heartbreak in those communities as they face this disastrous situation.



“We know that this summer has been an incredibly difficult one for Canadians everywhere. Severe flooding, devastating fires and deteriorating air quality due to smoke have impacted the country from coast to coast to coast. My wife and I send our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and we continue to pray for all those who have been displaced, who have lost their homes, businesses or property in such dire circumstances.

“Our admiration is unbounded for the tireless work of local officials, volunteers and first responders in assisting and protecting their neighbours and communities in the face of such danger and uncertainty. The beauty of Canada is not limited to its landscapes; its true beauty lies in the strength and resilience of Canadians and the care and concern they show to one another in the face of adversity.”

16:18 – New from Bill Braden: nearly a million dollars in funding promised by Canada to United Way NWT in June hasn’t shown up yet. Ottawa insists staff are fixing that “expeditiously.”

And yes, we’ve hired former Yellowknife MLA Bill Braden, a reporter for the Yellowknifer newspaper in the 1970s and 1990s, to augment our team during the wildfire crisis. Former CBC North reporter Hannah Paulson has also joined us on an emergency basis, and our new Dehcho reporter Simona Rosenfield starts tomorrow. We will train all the resources we have on this crisis and getting answers.

15:23 – Coming up from Chloe, who is precisely the right journalist for this stuff: what’s the deal with all the fire maps? How do they work and what do you need to know to understand what they’re telling you?

15:00 – The GNWT says Highway 3 between Behchokǫ̀ and Yellowknife is closed for ignition operations.

“This section of the highway will be re-opened when ignition operations are complete and its safe to travel through the ignition area. We don’t have a timeline for when that will be,” a spokesperson just told us by email.

“When that section of Highway 3 does re-open, it will be under the same conditions that have been in place since the evacuation order was made: Highway 3 will remain OPEN to southbound traffic. Highway 3 will remain CLOSED to northbound traffic from Behchokǫ̀ to Yellowknife. Essential traffic – such as first responders, trucks carrying fuel and groceries – will be allowed to travel northbound into Yellowknife.”



14:26 – New from Sarah: If you need it as an evacuee, emergency leave is a thing in the NWT – even in the private sector (where it’s usually unpaid). Here’s a guide.

13:45 – I only just learned this existed: there is an insurance trade association you can call if you have questions about how your insurer is operating or what your policy does (or doesn’t do). There is a big wildfire Q&A page that includes contact numbers and email addresses.

13:31 – For anyone running a small business, if you can, don’t forget to run your payroll. (This just occurred to us this morning.)

13:28 – New from me: updated summaries of wildfire activity outside Yellowknife, Hay River and Fort Smith.

The short version: no change in Yellowknife, Friday looks concerning for Hay River and a fire breached a guard west of Fort Fitzgerald.

13:19 – From my colleague Megan: after evacuating to Alberta, here’s how you can protect your pets from parasites less common in the NWT. We also cover what vaccines they should have.

13:15 – The city just reaffirmed on social media that it’s “waiving late fees and penalties for utility bill payments until further notice.” Read more about bill payments on our page about how companies are handling the evacuations.

12:41 – More from my colleague Chloe about what to do if you still need to be reunited with pets you had to leave in Yellowknife, or if they need to be checked on.



12:11 – This is Ollie, back in the hot seat. Thanks to Sarah for taking over while I prepared to be cross-examined by lawyers for Vista Radio, owners of True North FM, regarding Cabin Radio’s efforts to obtain an FM licence.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch our video of the folks building Yellowknife’s wildfire defences. It’s got some amazing footage in it, and the guys do a very good job of explaining what this work took.

11:21 – We’ve been asked by a few people, “But whyyyy can’t I just go back to Yellowknife? How are they going to stop me?”

Here’s what the RCMP said: “From the RCMP perspective, running through a roadblock is a dangerous action and could result in criminal charges relating to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle or, other appropriate criminal charges depending on the circumstances. In this case, people could be arrested and may face fines or a period of custody in addition to having vehicles impounded.

“The legislation that allows the evacuation orders to have a legal effect is the territorial Emergency Management Act. Section 25 of this Act makes it an offence to contravene and order issued under the Act and specifies that people may be liable for a period of imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5000.”

To summarize: don’t drive around the road blocks. Don’t come back yet. It’s not safe and not allowed.

10:55 – Stewart Weir MacDonald real estate appraisers says if you find yourself in a situation where you need photos of your home and its contents for insurance purposes, you can reach out to them if they’ve appraised your house lately and they can see if they can help.

10:49 – Here are the most important bits from Hay River’s morning update: 



  • Fire activity started to pick-up around the southwest end of fire, requiring more fire fighting assets in that area.
  • Crews continued to work east of the Hay River and north of the gun range on fire breaks.
  • Crews worked on drills to prepare “for a very challenging day coming on Friday.”
  • 47 power poles arrived in town, which will help crews restore electrical services.
  • Crews will be fixing a water main leak today (this leak is not affecting emergency efforts).

There was no update on the fire, which was eight kilometres away from Hay River as of Tuesday.

10:17 – If you had to leave your pet behind in Yellowknife, you can fill out a pet retrieval form to have your pet checked on and reunited with you.

10:03 – Switching now to the voice of Sarah Pruys in Calgary, who’ll take you through the next couple of hours.

9:38 – From Canada Post, asked by us if you can liberate your mail from Edmonton yet or even get it in Yellowknife:

“We continue to work on contingency plans and will be in touch as soon as we have updates.”

You’re also asked to keep checking this page.

9:21 – This video is brand new from us: the people leading work to build Yellowknife’s wildfire defences explain what they’ve built, what it took to build it and what they’ll do next.

Plus new drone footage from Tuesday showing Yellowknife’s new sprinkler and water cannon defences.



Huge thanks to our general manager AJ, Jay Bulckaert, Pablo Saravanja, all those who appear in the video and all those who contributed footage.

9:06 – My colleague Sarah has the latest on what’s happening to Yellowknife and South Slave schools. (Spoiler: not a lot.)

8:54 – I’ve just seen a press release suggesting six people (not from the NWT as far as I know) were arrested in Ottawa this morning “for nonviolently disrupting the Laurier Bridge to demand a national firefighting agency.”

8:41 – The video morning show is over, watch it back right here. The dad jokes section at the end is… something.

8:33 – Scott, on the morning show, is describing the family dogs discovering skunks for the first time. All these little Alberta firsts for northerners.

8:29 – There are hundreds, possibly thousands of NWT residents sheltering for the time being in Edmonton, so the city’s Pride festival is finding ways to include performers from the territory. Here’s more from my colleague Aastha (who had been with us for exactly one week when everyone was ordered to flee – welcome to Cabin Radio, Aastha…).

8:24 – We have some answers back about remote working for GNWT employees. We’ll get that turned around into a short report this morning.



8:12 – If you have healthcare-related questions, the NWT’s health authority has a page of guidance here. If you can’t find an answer to your question there or in our guides listed above, let us know.

8:03 – Our video show is now live!

7:52 – Asked on the CBC phone-in show why the GNWT didn’t consult with the Tłı̨chǫ Government about the evacuation, Thompson says: “We got the residents of Yellowknife out. We didn’t reach out to everybody because at the end of the day, it was about getting everyone out safely.”

Thompson says he spoke with Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty after the fact and the conversation will now be “ongoing.”

“We don’t look at the ‘citizens’ part, we look at where it is,” the minister says, referring to how evacuation orders are decided.

7:47 – If your insurance company isn’t waiving your deductible (an issue we’ve heard about a lot), will the GNWT offer any extra help? On the CBC phone-in, officials say use insurance if you can – but the deductible issue is a “factor being considered” in how to get more support out to residents.

“That’ll be part of the questions that we are looking at,” says Shane Thompson. “If it’s a $5,000 deductible, we need to look at that.”

7:45 – Thompson says trucks are now being allowed to come through and get food to Yellowknife for distribution. It’s not clear when that changed, that may explain the discrepancy below.



7:44 – Asked about resupply challenges, Thompson says food is being shipped to Yellowknife then distributed from there, which is not at all the understanding we were given from Łútsël K’é and Air Tindi just a day and a half ago. The minister says “we’re addressing it … these communities that rely on the food situation out of Yellowknife and Hay River, we’re looking at that for sure.” He adds staff are also “looking at” the Sahtu.

7:40 – A question on the CBC phone-in about why the Red Cross was only asked to support in Edmonton and not in other areas. (I can tell you right now the Red Cross is in the NWT, because some of them are staying in the same lodge as me.)

“Some of them have Red Cross in there, some of them don’t. It’s what the community and organization of Alberta has in place. We’re not dictating to them how to do it, they’re doing us a favour,” Shane Thompson says, referring to Alberta rather than NWT communities.

The CBC asks if Thompson will call in the Red Cross to help in the territory. Thompson says they’re looking at every option and haven’t yet reached out to the Red Cross from certain departments but other departments may. Again, there are five people in the same Fort Simpson building as me who say they’re from the Red Cross, so y’know. Clearly somebody made a call.

7:38 – What am I going to owe when I get back? From electricity to internet, here’s the latest from Emily on payment policies during evacuation orders. We’re actively trying to get answers from as many companies as we can. If you were given info by a company not on our list, let us know.

7:36 – Reminder, the CBC has a phone-in on now and we’re live from 8am with our own video morning show.

7:30 – Thompson confirms what I think was already fairly apparent: the territory will be applying for significant federal disaster assistance, following the same program that all provinces and territories can use. We were told yesterday that any federal assistance covers things like government evacuation costs but not necessarily firefighting, but Thompson just told the CBC he thinks firefighting costs are likely to be part of that claim to Ottawa.

7:26 – Extraordinarily for a phone-in show, the caller, offered a chance to respond to the minister, gives a measured and reasonable response. I love the Northwest Territories.



7:24 – A caller on the CBC phone-in, reading a list of questions, asks Thompson in a nutshell: when did he know Yellowknife would be evacuating and “why did he delay” telling residents till Wednesday evening last week.

Thompson says a process had to be followed. “If other people heard things and heard rumours, I apologize if it looks like we gave information [ahead of time] to our staff.”

7:23 – We asked RCMP yesterday whether their patrols extend beyond Yellowknife to Ndılǫ, Dettah, the Ingraham Trail homes and areas that are pretty-much deserted right now like Enterprise.

“The answer is yes,” said spokesperson Cpl Matt Halstead.

“We are patrolling all of those areas. We have officers making multiple patrols, day and night, to Dettah and Ndılǫ. We also have made and will continue to make patrols on the Ingraham Trail. Officers in Hay River have been out to Enterprise and will continue to make patrols in the coming days. We have also had officers go into Fort Smith, on RCMP planes, to conduct patrols there. These patrols have been dependent on fire conditions and visibility and our officers are not staying in the community overnight.”

7:22 – More from Shane Thompson: “We need to come up with a good approach because we’re spending taxpayers’ money. We haven’t figured out the details, we haven’t got them all done. We have a cabinet meeting at 1pm today and hopefully we’ll have some pretty good progress.”

7:21 – Thompson says the territory will “try to help people as best we can” and look at every option. “Nothing’s out of scope,” he says, though there are no fresh details about what the extra aid evacuees are promised might look like.

7:20 – CBC North is running a live Q&A with Minister Shane Thompson till 8am. Listen here.



7:15 – One of the many, many problems that come with evacuating Yellowknife is losing the city as a supply hub for smaller NWT communities. The manager of the Co-op in Łútsël K’é has been speaking with my colleague Emily about the “run on the store” that came with losing that supply link, the cost of chartering food from Edmonton, and the uncertainty of when things will change or whether extra support is coming.

7:06 – We have powerful new video from Yellowknife coming up this morning, and I’ll round up our latest reporting in a moment. Don’t forget our live morning show from 8am which you can watch here, and that’s also where you can find video of an update I gave to CBC News Network this morning.

6:59 – Good morning! The sun is up over the Mackenzie in Fort Simpson, the first mug of coffee has disappeared and it looks very much like it’s going to be a Wednesday.