A sign at the NWT border reads "emergency scene ahead." Photo: Candace Meadus
A key stretch of highway for thousands of Yellowknifers driving home this week is not currently threatened by fire or other obstacles, officials say.
Highway 1 from the Alberta border to the intersection with Highway 3 south of Fort Providence has been serially overrun by wildfire at various points in recent weeks.
Evacuees fleeing wildfires had to contend with thick smoke, flames by the roadside and pilot cars steering them through near-impassable conditions at times in August.
This week, those same circumstances don’t look set to repeat themselves, NWT Fire spokesperson Mike Westwick says.
Speaking at a Monday press conference, Westwick said the agency doesn’t see “any imminent risk” to Highway 1 for the next few days.
Highway 3 is also not an immediate concern. The evacuation order for Highway 3 properties west of Yellowknife will be downgraded to an evacuation alert on Wednesday, at the same time as the rest of the Yellowknife area, Westwick said.
Department of Infrastructure spokesperson Jeffrey Edison said drivers should still expect the possibility of smoke and occasional spot fires in the broad vicinity of Highway 1, but the road appeared “in good shape” as of Monday.
The depart reported 145 vehicles crossing the Deh Cho Bridge heading north on Sunday, a figure measured by cameras at a toll gantry on the bridge’s north side. Fresh daily figures are expected to be published daily, allowing evacuees planning a return to Yellowknife to gauge how many vehicles have already gone.
Tuesday is reserved for essential workers, then the checkpoint outside Yellowknife lifts at noon on Wednesday for the general population to come home.