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As it happened: Saturday updates on Hay River fire, YK volunteers

Hay River at 8am on Satruday, August 26. Photo: Mikey McBryan
Hay River at 8am on Satruday, August 26. Photo: Mikey McBryan


Two cabins and a trailer have so far burned on Hay River’s western edge as a wildfire continues to threaten the town.

Northerly winds on Saturday pushed the fire back on itself, giving firefighters a chance to regroup.

On this page, we brought you updates on the Hay River, Fort Smith and Yellowknife fires as we got them.

Around two weeks have now passed since residents of Hay River, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Fort Smith and Enterprise were told to drive south to anywhere safe in Alberta.



Most Yellowknife residents as well as those from Ndılǫ, Dettah and the Ingraham Trail left the city by road and air more than a week ago.

Residents were allowed to begin returning to Jean Marie River on Thursday but remain under evacuation alert.

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 also keeping track of the status of utilities, rent and other bills in evacuated communities
  • 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, Aastha Sethi, Simona Rosenfield, Bill Braden and Hannah Paulson. 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 concluded.

Live text reporter: Ollie Williams in Fort Simpson.
Thanks to Lady Slipper Lodge for hosting our Fort Simpson team!

21:12 – It’s time to wrap up the live coverage. Thanks for joining us. We’ll be back first thing tomorrow with the latest throughout the day, and as many good-news stories as we can find to fit alongside the usual doom-adjacent stuff.

Sleep well.

20:53 – “Helicopters and nine air tankers worked aggressively on the northern perimeter of the fire to reduce fire intensity and slow growth today, while preparing for a potentially challenging day tomorrow,” NWT Fire continues.



“Crews continued their direct attack along the northwestern portion of the fire – focusing on the perimeter to the west of the Hay River to prepare for potentially challenging conditions tomorrow.”

20:51 – New NWT Fire update for Hay River: we’re now up to two cabins and a travel trailer burned, all in that area next to the lake.

“North winds today improved visibility and put less pressure on fire perimeter closest to populated areas. Tomorrow, temperatures expected to again climb to 30C with south-southwesterly winds, 15 km/h gusting to 30 km/h, expected to shift to southwesterly at 15 km/h gusting up to 35-40 km/h, and extremely dry conditions,” NWT Fire writes.

“This may cause severe fire activity and would support growth to the north and to the east – which may be a risk for growth from the fire’s perimeter to the west of the river.

“Firefighting efforts will be focused on addressing these risks. Visibility may be challenging tomorrow – crew and pilot safety is number one.”

20:29 – Satellite mapping is starting to show a few hotspots west of Hay River again. More to the point, I’ve just seen video (I’ve verified the location and that it’s from this evening) that shows a little smoke plume rising again from yesterday’s burn area, and a larger plume off toward Sandy Creek.

This is usually the peak burning period of the day, so this is not exactly unexpected.

19:58 – New from me: The City of Yellowknife has sent a letter to many volunteers who stayed behind after last week’s evacuation, telling them their work is done – and asking them to leave.



18:40 – New from Emily: We asked the NWT’s Liberal MP, Michael McLeod, what he has been doing to help ease the territory’s wildfire crisis and support evacuees.

18:28 – (The chicken isn’t ready yet, I can squeeze another update in.)

NWT Fire reports one new lightning-caused fire today, about 60 km northeast of Enterprise and burning around 190 hectares so far. “It is currently being monitored. No threat to cabins, communities or infrastructure at this time.”

The fire outside Jean Marie River “saw some growth to the northwest end” but current weather conditions are helping crews.

18:23 – Not going to lie: given things are a fraction quieter today than they were this time yesterday, I’m going to go eat some dinner, see some sunlight, and act human for a short while.

Updates will come at a slower pace this evening, unless we need to ramp up again because of developments anywhere in the NWT, in which case we’ll be right back with you minute by minute.

18:11 – This is the Firms latest for Hay River. Lighter squares are older hotspots from up to a day ago, it’s the red and darker orange that are more recent and more important.

So far, so not-as-bad-as-yesterday. But bear in mind the last satellite pass feeding this map was at 3:15pm, so the situation will have evolved since. (Not to harp on about this, but Chloe’s great satellite fire map explainer is good for the science of these maps and their limitations.)



17:45 – Evacuee financial aid questions continue. “Can I claim the new Evacuation Travel Support Program if I evacuated in May?”

Yep, you can. The new program – the $750 for driving south, the $400 for driving somewhere else in the NWT – applies to all wildfire evacuations in the NWT this summer.

If you got in a car and left your NWT community under an evac order because of a wildfire earlier this summer, you can claim for that one and the ones that happened in the past couple of weeks. (And if you were only affected earlier in the summer, you can still claim for that.)

The application process hasn’t been rolled out yet but we will, obviously, tell you when it appears.

Note: all information above verified directly by me with the GNWT.

17:26 – Rest assured that the moment a blackfly coughs on a dandelion in Hay River, we’ll have that here. Ditto Fort Smith (just the one person in the inbox today complaining at a perceived lack of Fort Smith coverage, I know but weekends are not exactly overflowing with staff at Cabin Radio and there’s rather a lot on), and ditto Yellowknife.

17:23 – Tip of the hat to Pete, who wrote in having solved how to reach the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation form that I struggled with below. Click here to get it.

17:07 – I have long since given up trying to cover federal events that the federal government never bothers telling Cabin Radio how to access, no matter how many times we ask, so here’s a CBC report on the NWT premier and Justin Trudeau meeting today. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like a lot happened that was meaningful.



Wanting to hear from the NWT’s MP? Stand by, Emily got him on the phone yesterday.

17:04 – This came in from the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation, our fine hosts here.

I cannot get that link to work (even changing it to and, obviously, you’re not gonna be able to click the image they sent to try it), so if I were you I’d call or email. (Update: see 17:23 entry above.)

16:56 – Natasha, in Edmonton, apparently had a better (or at least safer) afternoon than me. She writes:

“I walked into a hair salon today and asked them to chop off all of my long hair. Too much aggro with everything happening. Anyway, as the stylist was drying what’s left of my hair, a woman came up to me and said, ‘My husband heard you tell the stylist you were from Yellowknife. We’ve paid for your service and we want you to know you are so welcome here in Edmonton.’

“Her name is Cheryl. The stylist and I almost both burst into tears. The goodwill and generosity of Edmonton and Alberta is truly incredible. Thank you so much to people like Cheryl here for not only helping us, but for making us feel welcome too.”

16:54 – Hello! This is Ollie taking over from Sarah.

During an otherwise great dog walk, I tried to throw a stick large enough to be a tree for the dog and, in doing so, hit myself in the jaw with it and now cannot chew properly. How’s YOUR day?



15:45 – There’s now a heat warning in place for Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte, Sambaa K’e, Fort Providence, Kakisa, Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River, Hay River, Enterprise and Wrigley.

Environment Canada says those communities could see highs of up to 33C and the heat will remain till around Wednesday.

15:15 – We now have video from the region on Hay River’s western edge that the wildfire reached last night. You can see some of the burn area as well as the efforts of crews today to tackle remaining hotspots. NWT Fire says a cabin and a travel trailer were lost.

15:05 – We’ve updated this story to include the latest from The Town of Hay River and NWT Fire. “To look out the window and see that fire roaring towards your town was something I will never forget.”

15:04 – Wildfire information officer Mike Westwick says around seven additional airtankers are headed for Hay River and air attacks are already underway. He says air supports have continued to be active to reduce the intensity and slow the growth of the fire.

“We had helicopters flying throughout the day yesterday still, despite all the challenging conditions, with their buckets as much as possible,” he says, adding the number one priority is safety.

“There’s a certain point where it’s unsafe to fly, it’s unsafe to drop water and fire retardant in areas. And that’s just the reality.”

Today crews are expected to hit the north end of the fire that’s closest to Kátł’odeeche First Nation.



Westwick says they are“throwing everything at this fire.”

14:25 – A reminder that if you are a member of an Indigenous Government and have been evacuated, you may be eligible for additional financial supports. On our financial supports page, we have information on what the North Slave Métis Alliance, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Gwich’in Tribal Council, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Délı̨nę Got’įnę Government, and Tłı̨chǫ Government are offering members. If we’re missing something, send us a message.

The Northern Mosaic Network is also providing funding to 2SLGBTQIPA+, Black, Indigenous, People of the Global Majority, low income, and disabled community members.

14:09 – Here’s the latest on where the Hay River/ Kátł’odeeche/Kakisa Fire fire is in relation to landmarks:

  • Hay River – 1km west of the airport; 1.5km west of town centre
  • River Woods Estates – 3km east
  • Kátł’odeeche First Nation Reserve – 7km south of residences in the reserve
  • Paradise Garden – reached; structures damaged
  • Patterson Road – reached area
  • Kakisa – 12km southeast

14:05 – Premier Caroline Cochrane met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today. Trudeau said his government will be there for the NWT “as we look at how we build more resilient infrastructure, how we support people living in the North, how we plan for the worst climate change impacts that are in the coming years.”

13:58 – That’s it for the Hay River press conference. Emily is working on a full report on it, and I still need to write up a story on the Dene Nation’s press conference from yesterday so we’ll bring you those as soon as we can. 

There is no GNWT press conference scheduled for tonight.

13:52 – Jameson says as soon as it is safe for her and the town’s senior administrative officer to return to Hay River, they will do so.



13:50 – There are no more evacuation flights scheduled for Saturday, but Jameson says, “Should things go really sideways that the Coast Guard has two ships in the harbour and they are anchored out there waiting to see should … we need their support” to get the remaining people in town out.

13:47 – On Friday night, 61 people left Hay River on the first flight out and 112 on the second plane (105 military members, two residents, and five essential workers). Jameson says they estimate another 40 vehicles left via the highway as well.

The town is estimating about 100 residents are still in the community.

13:45 – “I think one of the biggest concerns last night was losing our water treatment plant which is a multimillion dollar building. What do we do from there if we don’t have water? So that was a huge win for the community, and that’s what we’re doing right now is counting our wins and being prepared for whatever comes at us,” Jameson says.

13:41 – “We believe that there are still people in the community which is very scary,” said Jameson. “The fire is in our community, and the last thing they do is remove the essential workers so that if that doesn’t tell people how serious a situation we’re in, I’m not sure what will.”

13:35 – “Emotionally, it was a roller coaster, to look out the window and see that fire roaring towards your town was something I will never forget,” says Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson in a Saturday afternoon press conference when asked how it felt to leave the town on Friday night.

“I felt like I was abandoning the people that were working the hardest for us and that was a really tough one to come to terms with. But it was time to get out, it was not a good situation.”

13:32 – NWT Fire says there was “significant growth” of the fire on the east side of the river, across Highway 5, overnight. It says one cabin and a travel trailer were destroyed to the west of the Town of Hay River near the shores of Great Slave Lake while no structural damage occurred to critical infrastructure nor the most populated residential neighbourhoods in Hay River.



The wildfire agency says north winds throughout most of Saturday are expected to push the fire back on itself in many areas. It says conditions should improve visibility, limit fire growth toward Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation, and allow for air missions.

On Sunday, NWT Fire says, temperatures are expected to climb to 30 degrees, with southerly winds expected to shift westerly and extreme dry conditions which could case “severe” wildfire activity and fire growth to the north and east. Firefighting efforts are set to focus on reducing these risks.

“Our team alongside the Town of Hay River are doing everything possible to protect the community and reduce those risks – with all tactics on the table – from directly attacking the fire as it’s safe, to action from the air, to building fuel breaks and digging away fuel at the edge of the fire with heavy equipment.”

12:59 – If you have access to a printer – try a public library – North Creative sent us this colouring page you can print for your kids.

12:55 – We’ve updated this story to include a first-hand account from the ground in Hay River. “It feels like we won a little bit of a battle last night.”

12:32 – This is Ollie sending you back now to Calgary and Sarah Pruys, whose dogs are freshly walked. Mine has had a fixed and despairing gaze on me for an hour now, so off we go to find some cut-line or other.

Sarah will bring you live updates from the Town of Hay River’s 1:30pm press conference, which Emily is attending for us, so you’ll have immediate headlines from that press conference plus a full report.

12:27 – Latest update on the fires around Yellowknife is in.



“Cooler temperatures expected today but still way above seasonal averages, with highs around 20C,” NWT Fire writes.

“Winds will be northerly early afternoon, which will dry up the little rain we received yesterday. The winds will then ease off through the later afternoon and evening and carry into Sunday.

“On Sunday, another trough of low pressure forms in the Mackenzie Valley and shifts winds back to southerly. However, the winds do not look to be quite as strong as this present wind event, and will be decreasing significantly into the evening as the trough moves over the fires.

“There is no precipitation expected today. During the peak burning period today, there is a good chance of continuous crown fire, where fire jumps from treetop to treetop in areas with mature boreal spruce, and intermittent crown fire in areas with spruce lichen forest.”

Fire remains 15 km from Yellowknife (which, personally, I treat as a daily victory).

Ingraham Trail fire: “Winds will continue to push the south side of the fire towards Prelude Lake today.” Fire remains four kilometres from said lake. Dettah fire, no significant change that I could see.

Read more from NWT Fire.

12:23 – Let me highlight an excerpt from Simona’s article that might be especially useful to people having an accommodation crisis in Edmonton:



The Canadian Red Cross told the City of Edmonton on Friday a city-wide shortage of hotel rooms exists – especially those that are pet-friendly – which may extend wait times, according to Sean Clovechok, incident commander at Edmonton’s Office of Emergency Management.

The Edmonton Expo Centre has cots for any evacuees without a bed, designated areas for those travelling with pets, and services like a doggie daycare and dog park.

“If Red Cross can’t place them in a hotel right away, they can stay here and we have cots set up with different areas for different people – so family, single female, and so on,” Clovechok said. “They can get three meals a day here.”

(I realize that probably doesn’t sound massively attractive but, if you are really struggling to get a place you can afford or that the Red Cross will cover, it is at least somewhere to be.)

12:10 – Our reporter Simona Rosenfield started work at Cabin Radio on Thursday (remotely, obvs). I immediately assigned her a gargantuan topic: the various accommodation crises evacuees are experiencing.

Simona spoke with many people over the past two days. Some of their stories are in this article, as are responses from the NWT government, City of Edmonton and Canadian Red Cross. I think it’s an important read, particularly if so far your evacuee experience has been fairly plain sailing. That isn’t the case for everyone.

11:47 – Ray Bethke sends these screenshots from Firms that show how satellites monitored fire hotspots west of Hay River through Friday and into Saturday morning.

(Remember my colleague Chloe’s advice about interpreting this kind of thing.)

11:36 – We had a great question sent to us yesterday: If you drove from Fort Smith to Yellowknife after Smith’s evac order, then from Yellowknife to Alberta after Yellowknife’s evac order, do you get the $400 payment and the $750 payment from the funding program announced last night?

Answer: Yes!

“The payments are per event,” a GNWT spokesperson told me this morning.

“So in the scenario you described, if someone self-evacuated from Fort Smith to Yellowknife, then they would be eligible for a $400 payment. If they then self-evacuated from Yellowknife to Alberta, they would be eligible for a $750 payment.”

11:33 – Don’t forget we have a page where you can always get the latest on each major wildfire, summed up as quickly as we can.

11:25 – Speaking of Fort Smith, here’s the latest just out from Parks Canada and friends, via NWT Fire. I know we’re a little Hay River-heavy today but I hope everyone understands the very obvious reasons for that, and Hay River, let’s face it, puts up with us being all won’t-somebody-think-of-the-people-who-drove-from-Yellowknife.

(And yes, I know there are 30 more communities out there who’d like to point out they have news, too. We’re working on it. I swear.)

So then. Fort Smith update:

“The north flanks of the complex saw active fire behaviour yesterday. With today’s forecasted wind change we are expecting fire growth towards the southeast,” NWT Fire stated.

“Today, the forecast calls for 23C and a relative humidity of 40 percent. Winds from the southwest at 10 km/h, gusting to 15 km/h in the morning with a cold front expected to come through around noon, causing a change in wind direction to northwest 15 km/h gusting up to 40 km/h. There is a slight chance of 0.5 mm of scattered showers.”

As forecasts go, that could be worse. Sunday might be hotter and a bit blustery, and next week will apparently also be warm with a wind that could threaten communities.

Today’s Fort Smith battle plan: “The team will work to contain the north and east flanks of the wildfire using crews, equipment and aerial resources, as long as safe working conditions allow. Helicopters continue to bucket in key locations along the wildfire perimeter where fire activity starts to pick up if visibility allows. Ignition specialists continue to be prepared to do planned ignition operations if conditions allow.”

11:22 – It’s now raining heavily in Fort Simpson. It’s a beautiful sound, and I hope it heads east. (Our forecast suggests a tiny amount of this should get to Hay River, and Fort Smith might seen a little rain too.)

11:11 – Here’s our full report on Hay River seeming to have avoided the worst, according to its mayor. We’ll add more voices from the town into that report as we get them. (If you have a contribution to make and are in safe place, get in touch.)

11:04 – Hay River is in better condition than anyone could have hoped for last night, the mayor just said.

This was shared to Facebook by the Town of Hay River. It’s a photo of one of Mayor Kandis Jameson’s dogs on the Herc evac last night.

One of Mayor Kandis Jameson's dogs on an evacuation flight. Photo: Town of Hay River

“Last night myself, my dogs, the Canadian Armed Forces, many fire support service personnel, and some remaining residents loaded into two Hercules flights and departed to Edmonton. It was challenging to leave under such grim circumstances,” Jameson writes.

“Waking this morning, we see that Hay River has survived in much better condition than any of us imagined last night. The wildfire crew has relentlessly placed aircraft in the air and boots on the ground to attack and control this fire.”

11:03 – Meanwhile, I’m expecting to check in with NWT Fire very shortly.

11:02 – The Town of Hay River will hold a press conference at 1:30pm. My colleague Emily will be there (it’s by video link, for obvious reasons) and will bring us the latest.

11:00 – This is Ollie taking over from Sarah. Welcome to a moist Fort Simpson, which is the very best kind of Fort Simpson this summer.

10:26 – More on RCMP investigating the return of Katrina Nokleby to Yellowknife this week, plus all the background we have so far on her return – and the mayor’s criticism of her remarks.

10:16 – The Grande Prairie Emergency Evacuation Centre is relocating to Teresa Sargent Hall, at 9838-103rd Ave.



Kátł’odeeche First Nation will be operating out of this new location.

10:15 – From Aastha: Yellowknife musician Layne Rybchinski, who regularly hosts jam nights in the NWT capital, is bringing northern evacuees together with live music in Edmonton.

10:14 – A few of Yellowknife’s senior horses are looking for a retirement home in the south.

“It’s just not fair to make them do a big journey again [back to Yellowknife],” wrote Sienna Hart Kellar on Facebook, the woman who helped evacuate the horses to Alberta. “And it’s so much nicer for them to have pastures instead of pens and not do -50 winters. Mack and Norman have to go together and it be great if Daisy can go with the mini.”

Five goats are also looking for new homes. If you can help out, reach out to Sienna.

10:06 – We know some people are having difficulties getting the support they need during the evacuation, or have some things to say about the $750 evacuation travel support program. We see your emails and we appreciate you taking the time to write and share things we should follow up on.

I’d also encourage you to reach out to your MLAs, who can advocate on your behalf as well. Here’s where you can find their contact information.

9:54 – Here’s the RCMP overnight update: Hay River officers were all evacuated. Fort Smith officers will patrol the community today if their plane can land at the airport – this is dependent on visibility and wildfire conditions.



And in Yellowknife, police continued patrols of the city as well as patrols of Ndılǫ, Dettah and the Ingraham Trail and said there have been no confirmed reports of break and enters.

9:46 – And here’s the a screengrab from some satellite imagery of the Hay River fire on August 25, 2023.

A screengrab of the Hay River fire on August 25, 2023. Photo: Sentinel Hub Playground
Photo: Sentinel Hub Playground

9:41 – Buffalo Air’s Mikey McBryan shared some photos of Hay River he took at 8am this morning.

9:37 – The NWTSPCA says thank you to everyone in Edmonton who came to the airport to pick up some of the 11 dogs that were evacuated from Hay River late last night and were sitting on the tarmac with nowhere to go.

“A huge THANK YOU to Fire Prevention Services who allowed the remainder of the dogs to hang out at their shop in Leduc for the night,” the shelter said, adding now they just need to find foster homes. If you are able to foster, you can apply here.

9:31 – This footage shows the wildfire near Hay River last night in the West Channel area.

And here’s more footage from 3:30am in Hay River, taken along the road by the sewage lagoon.

9:23 – Good morning! You’ve probably already read our story with the midnight update on the Hay River fire likely damaging some structures on the west side of town, but if you missed it, here it is.