Fire boss aircraft take off from the mouth of the Hay River. Photo: Submitted
On this page, we brought you updates throughout Sunday on the NWT’s wildfire crisis – and some lighter moments as evacuees used the weekend to decompress.
Heading into Sunday, fire crews in Hay River were preparing for another day of “severe fire activity” and winds that could blow the fire, which is just west of the town, even closer.
Outside Fort Smith, there was an anticipation of “increased fire behaviour” on Sunday. The wind was not expected to be quite such a factor outside Yellowknife.
Causing more of a storm in Yellowknife was a letter thanking volunteers for helping but asking them to leave, which generated a dismayed reaction from some people involved in building fire breaks and feeding essential workers over the past week.
Others said the time had come to go, while evacuees down south took the move as a sign that there’ll be no swift end to the evacuation.
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19:00 – We’re wrapping tonight’s live coverage a little early to allow our team a bit of a breather before the new week starts. This will be the last update here, though we’ll add new wildfire info in this page as it comes in tonight – and if the situation deteriorates, our live coverage will return immediately.
Let me leave you with this incredible image. Deborah tipped us off to this: Brianna, from Hay River, gave birth to a baby girl today in Grande Prairie. Here is the first photo I have seen of an NWT 2023 evacuee baby.
What a moment, what a thing. Congrats, Brianna and family. Have a good Sunday night, all, and we’ll be back to help you through the week ahead.
18:54 – From Aaron:
“My wife Barbara and I ended up in Haines Junction for the YK evac, and are doing another hike here today. Climbed Paint Mountain a few days ago. Making the best of things, for sure. Staying in a cozy cabin with our two cats.
“Yukon has been extremely welcoming. There’s a few of us hiding over here. We left just before the evacuation started, and camped along the way, avoiding the throng.”
18:51 – From John:
“The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performed a pay-what-you-can concert in Stony Plain this afternoon. Large turnout and their final piece, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, was dedicated to wildfire evacuees. Overall, quite a nice musical break from the current routine.”
18:31 – Props to Emily for this evening’s pasta at the Cabin Radio emergency newsroom. She forgot the garlic bread, but it’s been exactly the kind of week where the garlic bread accidentally goes by the wayside, I think we can all agree.
18:11 – Jason notes: “Just a couple YK Kids at the Elks Game on TSN!”
18:06 – From Rudi and Janine:
“We’re decompressing by taking advantage of the mountains and getting our hike on and brewery tunes in Canmore,” they write.
I may have to ban photos if it looks like you’re having too nice a time. I’m just sayin’.
18:02 – (Re the Tiktok in 17:55 below.) If you’re reading this and would like to make your own Cabin Radio signs and form a flashmob, I would like to make it abundantly clear that we endorse that.
17:55 – Presented without comment. (You may need to get about 20 seconds in to see what’s happening. The context is here.)
“My husband and I went to ‘Weinerama’ near St Albert today as a distraction, to see my aunt and her two dachshunds. Weiner dogs doing races, obstacle courses and costume pageant.
“It was fun, and now I can say I’ve been to a Weiner show!”
17:22 – This is Ollie, taking back over from Sarah. Speaking of that soccer game, here’s a note from Patrick:
“Enjoying a soccer match with a team-mate who had the seat next to yours by accident. Not a bad way to decompress! Thanks to Cavalry FC for the tickets and the fun happenstance.”
(That’s fellow Yellowknifer and accidental companion Doug on the left, next to Patrick.)
16:52 – From Kim: “A special thanks to the Cavalry Football Club who is hosting 300 Yellowknifers at their home game against the Pacific FC this afternoon in Calgary. It’s so great to see faces from home and cheer on Cavalry FC!”
16:05 – We’re seeing new video near the intersection with Highway 5 that appears to show some fire growth in that area, matching fire growth shown on Firms this afternoon.
15:58 – From Inemesit, who spent today picking pears in BC:
15:23 – This is Ollie handing you to Sarah in Calgary, who’ll take you through the next little while.
15:11 – From Adrienne:
“Making friends in Fort St John, BC. This is me and Clover at the North Peace Regional Fair.”
15:07 – From Aingeal:
“We are staying in Beaumont, Alberta, in a travel trailer that my dear friend Stephanie arranged for us. A big shoutout to Stephanie, who is taking care of all her friends from afar.
“Decompression Sunday for me is utilizing the resources of the Beaumont Public Library by way of the free temporary library card they granted me, and possibly a visit later to the Beaumont rec centre for their pool, hot tubs, sauna and steam room.”
Thanks to all the Alberta communities opening up facilities and resources for NWT evacuees.
How’s your Sunday going? Are you doing something to try to take your mind off the situation we’re all in? Let us know.
14:41 – Continuing our tour of Sunday activities – hello to Vivian biking in Bowness and to Denise, who took two Yellowknife Minor Hockey players to an Oil Barons game in Fort McMurray, where they got free admission.
Hello also to Jennifer, who writes: “Not sure where this lands on the Sara Wong scale of relaxation (see 10:40 update), but I’m waiting to board a flight for a long-planned trip to Iceland, where I’ll spend seven days in the saddle, riding Icelandic horses around the Golden Circle. And before anybody asks, yes I’m using vacation leave for this, booked it all back in March.”
14:22 – You’ve probably seen the NWT Strong logo everywhere. Meet the man who designed it and is now selling products to raise money for United Way NWT.
14:06 – In an odd correction email, the GNWT just rowed back on a portion of the supports announced earlier in the week (a portion involving governments rather than you as an individual).
The GNWT had said it was “expanding the Community Government Hosting Evacuees Grant into a broad Hosting Grant that can include community organizations.”
The territory now says, in a very short email a moment ago: “This grant continues to be offered to community governments, and is not being expanded.”
Fascinating. (What went on there? Feel free to use this form if you need to provide a news tip about anything.)
14:04 – On the Ingraham Trail fire, we’re told a south wind today should push the fire “towards areas without fuel,” which is a good thing. Full update here.
That same south wind is trickier for the Dettah fire, as it could push the fire toward Jennejohn Lake. In the right (wrong) conditions, the fire could “take a run upwards of three kilometres,” NWT Fire wrote.
13:59 – I’ve just seen video that shows a whole lot of hard work going on outside Hay River today to tackle hotspots. Satellite maps are showing a fair amount of fire activity in the area so far today, though nothing yet that’s any closer to the town centre than what we already saw.
13:54 – If you’re heading to the Elks game today, Jennifer suggests being aware of their bag policy so you aren’t caught out.
I love that we have an audience switched-on enough to make sure other evacuees heading to an event get information like this. Thank you, everyone who sends things in so we can share them. The little stuff like this is always helping someone, somewhere.
13:19 – From Suzanne, continuing our tales of weekend decompression:
“Staying in Caslan, AB with family. Went to a country fair – the key event was a pig-catching contest. This is the teens tryouts. Was a hoot!”
(I think, seeing that image, I mostly feel sympathy for the pig, but this may also reflect the legacy of how gym class usually worked out for me as a kid.)
13:04 – New from Sarah: RCMP are warning of a scam involving text messages promising money to evacuees. Read this article to know what to look for.
Here’s the ZF015 update, the fire west of Yellowknife:
“These fires remain out-of-control. Although these fires are not progressing as dramatically as others in the NWT, that DOES NOT MEAN the danger has passed,” the wildfire agency states, using capitals (I wonder who might have triggered NWT Fire to get annoyed enough to use caps?).
“These fires remain volatile, posing active threats to communities and infrastructure like roads in the area,” the agency adds. “IT IS NOT SAFE TO RETURN.”
Here’s the update for the day ahead: “Another trough of weather developing in the Mackenzie Valley and moving through the region will bring increasingly strong and gusty southerly winds today, gusting to 30 km/h. There is a risk that a low-level jet could form as well and give a boost to the gusty winds, bringing drier air down. Temperatures between 20C and 25C are expected today.
“Winds should ease later tonight, but temperatures are expected to hit a record high on Monday to the mid-twenties, well above seasonal averages.
“While there were intermittent showers in the region that may or may not have rained on the fire, there is little, or 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.”
12:00 – New from NWT Fire on the Hay River situation. Lots of this is similar to last night’s update, which means little change so far today:
“Today, temperatures expected to again reach up to 30C with south-southwesterly winds, 15 km/h gusting to 30 km/h in morning, shifting southwesterly at 15 km/h gusting up to 35-40 km/h, and extremely dry conditions.
“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 is a challenge and may make it difficult for aircraft to fly – crew and pilot safety is number one.
“A wind shift to the northwest is forecast later in the evening (after 7pm), which may provide some relief.”
11:45 – Nearly 400 people are fighting the fires around Fort Smith.
This morning’s update: the fire hopped across parts of some containment lines yesterday and crews are working to contain that along the Foxholes Road, an area east of Connie’s Road near Highway 5, and on the south side of Highway 5 between Thebacha Road and Bell Rock.
Today, the fire is expected to grow to the north and northwest.
There’s no big shift reported in the fire’s distance to any structures around Fort Smith.
The Monday forecast high is 30C with winds from the south gusting to 25 km/h. After that, “the forecast for early next week calls for hot, dry conditions with mostly easterly winds, which is conducive to extreme fire behaviour,” Parks Canada just wrote.
11:24 – As we are sharing these little light moments, there are emails coming in from people who say they’re facing financial ruin right now. Rest assured that even as we try to find some bright spots here and there, we’re continuing all the reporting we can to understand how you’re going to be helped through this financially, mentally and in all the other ways.
11:22 – Sarah (not Cabin Radio’s Sarah) got her decompression in early. She writes: “On Thursday night, my husband and I saw Taylor Tomlinson live in Calgary. It was an awesome show and a great little escape from the news.”
Even I would have escaped from the news for that, very jealous.
11:20 – More Sunday activities. Kate says: “Going to Jay’s lemonade stand in Vermilion. Jay’s stand and other communities, including Edmonton, are raising funds for Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton (a place northern kids sometimes go). A small chance to give back to Alberta and the North. Imagine if all evacuees bought a glass of lemonade today!”
Kevin says: “We’re off to Kananaskis today so we can take in some fresh mountain air. Then we’ll be spending time on the beach this afternoon with a good friend of ours. Anything to take our minds off of not being home yet.”
11:14 – Continuing our tour of things people are doing to decompress this weekend, this photo came in with the caption: “We’re napping at a family cabin. Jackson has claimed his own chair on the deck.”
Listen, Jackson has earned that chair. Jackson has seen some stuff from the humans this month.
11:05 – I’ve seen one or two posts online about businesses like tour companies saying they have been given a return date of September 1 or possibly September 5.
There is absolutely no communication to that effect that I’ve seen from any government agency. That doesn’t mean it’s untrue, necessarily – just that any online chatter about dates needs to be consumed very, very carefully. As ever, we’ll keep asking about return dates and once I have something at all official available, we’ll have it here.
10:40 – Not long ago I made the critical mistake of asking you for photos of your Sunday attempts at relaxation. I should have known to ban Sara Wong from the outset (Sara Wong of skiing 120 kilometres in -20C fame) but alas here’s Sara Wong, in Canmore with Julia Gyapay and Luca Baraldi, “doing some mental health hiking.”
Let me be very clear: the only mental health hiking happening over here is occurring internally, and your Sunday photos do not have to register on the Wong index of physical intensity. (All the same, Sara, that photo looks sensational.) Whatever you’re doing to decompress today, let me know.
10:29 – We’re expecting the first Hay River update from NWT Fire at around noon or just after. That’s also likely to be when we get Yellowknife and Fort Smith updates.
“We want to assure all families that our PRSD is here to provide assistance and support to those who have been displaced by the wildfires. If you are a family currently facing displacement and are seeking a stable educational environment for your children, we warmly invite you to register your students in PRSD schools.”
9:52 – The Town of Hay River says power is back on Vale Island. (It was down for a while back there.)
9:41 – Sunday topic: What are you doing today to try to decompress a bit? Let me know. Heck, send photos if you’re having a good time and don’t mind sharing. We might as well try to be a little uplifted where we can get it.
Me? I’m watching Newcastle v Liverpool. Manchester City won, so it’s a happy morning in at least one aspect of existence.
9:38 – The finance minister, Caroline Wawzonek, has a long post on Facebook about the financial supports on offer right now and some of the challenges from the territorial government’s perspective. (That post has been updated overnight, there was apparently a mistake somewhere in her first one yesterday.) The minister also appears to be responding to a comment or two.
9:36 – Overnight report from RCMP:
“Yellowknife RCMP received no calls for service overnight. RCMP officers continue to patrol Yellowknife, Ndilǫ, Dettah and the Ingraham Trail. In Fort Smith, a patrol of the community yesterday was successful. Another patrol today will be attempted based on wildfire conditions and visibility at the airport. Officers remain evacuated from Hay River and patrols will resume once it is safe to do so.”
9:35 – Here are some images of the sprinkler line set up to protect Ndılǫ.
9:26 – If you’re one of the Yellowknife volunteers asked to leave, be aware that the range of accommodation options is a little more limited than it was – some evacuation centres are at capacity.
Check the Government of Alberta’s latest list if you’re heading that way and need support on arrival in the province. That page also has numbers you can call if you need help navigating the supports available.
9:15 – Want to see how much Yellowknife’s landscape has changed? Read our article comparing satellite images earlier in August with images from Friday. You can see huge fire breaks appear from nothing.
(If you read that article earlier this morning, I’ve now beefed it up with extra before-and-after images that make the differences much easier to see and understand if you’re reading on a cellphone.)
8:47 – Global has this report on a Yellowknife cab driver offering free rides to evacuees.
8:45 – What I have seen online this morning is this message from the fire division at the County of Vermilion River. They are among crews from a dozen-plus communities who have gone to Hay River to help.
“With fire breaching a containment barrier to the west of Town of Hay River yesterday, the County of Vermilion River – in conjunction with our regional partners at the Minburn County Fire Department, at the request of the Province of Alberta – deployed assets and resources this weekend to provide structural protection and firefighting assistance on the ground alongside NWT Fire, the Canadian Armed Forces, Wainwright Fire & Rescue and other deployed firefighters from across Western Canada,” reads a long but welcome sentence.
“The next 72 hours could be critical,” county fire chief Kirk Hughes is quoted as saying. Hughes is described as a veteran NWT firefighter and Mountie.
“Personally, as a former resident of the NWT, I am proud the county could provide assistance in this dire time,” he states.
8:27 – There is no immediate, definitive overnight update from Hay River but there’s also nothing to suggest any major change. The satellite picture looks relatively quiet inside the town boundary itself, and I’ve seen nothing on social media to suggest the same level of jeopardy as the night before.
8:22 – Good morning from Fort Simpson. If you’re planning on fighting a wildfire today, good luck. If you’re just fighting uncertainty and a strange pit in your stomach, we’ll do what we can to help.