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As it happened: GNWT’s Calgary flight shift, Hay River-KFN plans arrive

A water bomber in action near Hay River on September 2, 2023. Photo: GNWT
A water bomber in action near Hay River on September 2, 2023. Photo: GNWT


Hay River’s re-entry plan was published on Friday while Yellowknifers continued heading home and the battle against a wildfire near Fort Smith rolled on.

Both Hay River and Fort Smith are expected to face a “highly active” weekend of fire as conditions become warmer and windier.

Thousands of Yellowknife residents have returned since the city’s evacuation order dropped on Wednesday, but many more are still making the trip by car or air.

Airlift flights are set to continue throughout Friday, with anyone still needing a GNWT re-entry flight told to pre-register by 8pm on Friday at the latest. The territory, meanwhile, partly jettisoned its pre-registration system in Calgary, opting instead to tell all remaining evacuees to gather at a hotel for transport to the airport.



On this page, we brought you updates throughout the day on travel conditions and the fight against the NWT’s wildfires.

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.

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

Live text reporter: Ollie Williams in Yellowknife

17:07 – Our live coverage concludes here. We won’t have live pages on Saturday and Sunday but you’ll find important updates on our homepage as we get them.

Take care of yourself and we hope you’re able to have a good weekend. Thanks to everyone for the kind words, the messages, the photos and the questions this week – it means a lot to us to be a part of your journey through all this nonsense.

17:04 – The GNWT is now telling evacuees in Edmonton and Calgary that September 10 is when their accommodation will run out. Here’s a Facebook post with specific instructions for any YK evacuees in those cities yet to confirm a flight back to Yellowknife.

17:01 – Not for the first time this week, we’ve been sent video of a house being moved on a big old truck through Alberta as Yellowknife residents make their way home.

“North of Whitecourt,” noted Nancy, sending in the footage. She says the house made her think of a “whole new meaning to shopping at IKEA.”

17:00 – The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo just posted the following on Facebook:



“A direct return flight from Fort McMurray is scheduled to depart tomorrow, September 9. Evacuees must call 1-888-383-4830 before 8pm tonight to book a seat on this flight.”

16:57 – We had some parents earlier asking what the deal was with school bus passes now that school is about to actually start in Yellowknife.

We asked Transdev, which is what the company running the city’s buses is now called. A representative just wrote: “Staff are still returning to Yellowknife and we will be reassessing the situation on Monday, September 11. We will provide updates once we are back in the office.”

16:44 – I’ve had one or two reports of things getting quite busy at Big River right now but can’t immediately confirm that. The Snowshoe Inn live feed suggests the cardlock in Fort Providence is super quiet right now, if that helps anyone looking for gas in the area.

16:43 – The Yellowknives Dene First Nation writes: “YKDFN members still waiting on flight confirmations in any location, please call or text Theresa Lynn at 867-765-8686.”

16:42 – (This has got Friday late afternoon press release written all over it. Not wildfire-related but certainly crazy 2023 NWT environment related.)

The GNWT says Marine Transportation Services has scrapped its third and final sailings to Norman Wells and Tulita because of “dangerously low” water levels.

Marine Transportation Services (MTS) cancels final sailings to Norman Wells and Tulita due to low water levels.



Today, the GNWT’s Marine Transportation Services announced that the third sailings to the communities of Norman Wells and Tulita have been cancelled due to dangerously low water levels on the Mackenzie River.

MTS is now “making alternate plans for shipment.”

Fuel supply is “not an issue,” the GNWT states, and deliveries to Inuvialuit communities and Fort Good Hope are continuing.

16:33 – Our assistant editor, Emily, is working on a report about the experiences of pregnant evacuees. If that’s you or your partner and you are willing to speak with Emily, you can reach her at

16:29 – I asked Mayor Jameson about whether she wants Hay River’s re-entry to copy – or not copy – anything she’s seeing from Yellowknife’s re-entry this week.

“We’ve gone through this a few times, so I’d like to think we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve,” she says. “We know what to expect, I guess, is the bottom line. We’re almost veterans at this, which is unfortunate but it’s our reality. So I’m hoping if there are glitches, that Maca will have them ironed out by the time it gets to us and our re-entry plan.

“Our plan is going to look a little different than it has in the past, in that people were flowing all over western Canada, so gathering them back up is going to take some time.”

(I feel like I was deservedly mildly schooled by this answer. She is quite right that Hay River doesn’t need to learn anything from Yellowknife about evacuations.)



16:25 – “Fingers crossed, if all goes well,” says Kandis Jameson, asked if the seven-to-10-day timeline she mentioned earlier still holds. “Obviously, safety is number one. We do not want to bring people back if there is a safety concern … I’m hoping that a week to 10 days is reasonable.”

16:24 – Glenn Smith on aligning Hay River’s plan with KFN: “There are a lot of dependencies between the two communities. We have a lot of services – water, waste management, sewer – that are provided into that community. We’ve worked very closely, they’ve been a part of our emergency management committee since the beginning of this.

“When we got to the point of discussing re-entry … we’ve had dedicated meetings. We’re well coordinated this go around. The different risks with the fire need to be considered, hence why the two communities proceed with their own plan.”

16:19 – More from Kandis Jameson:

“We are definitely getting good at this. We’ve learned how to navigate the system, where to find the supports. A huge lesson through all of this is finding out that we’re not alone – that social services are there for people who need counselling and health, they’ve stepped up big-time. All of us are working together to help our residents and support them.

“I had a conversation with the mayor of Enterprise today. Where do you even start? But he’s got a plan and they’re gung-ho. I said let me know what you need from us. It is a matter of working together. We have great things that happen in this community as well as really horrible things that have happened in the past. I think we’re stronger for them.”

16:17 – Kandis Jameson is asked about residents of Paradise Gardens.

“My heart breaks for those people. Some of them have lost not just their homes but their livelihoods,” she says.



Jameson describes the scene that will greet Hay River residents returning by road: “It’s going to be tough on everybody, coming home. Those that have lost so much, more so, obviously. To drive through into this community is going to be very tough on a lot of people … It was a tough go to see it. It really is. The devastation is unreal so people need to be aware of it, to prepare yourself. The whole landscape of our community has changed.”

16:14 – Mike Westwick at NWT Fire calls the weekend ahead “potentially difficult.”

“We continue to have active fire very close to the community,” Westwick says. “Since we got that little break in weather, we have been making extraordinary progress throughout this Hay River corridor. We’re through about 70 to 80 percent of the line we need to cover through the corridor, stretching to Delancey, Garden Road. We’ve been working with heavy machinery doing tightlining, digging away burnable stuff right at the edge of a fire … and blacklining, when you work your way in from the edge of the fire and begin to actually extinguish everything within that, to make a more secure perimeter.

“Additionally, we’re making progress on two fingers of fire that are a concern toward the KFN reserve.”

16:12 – Glenn Smith says communications have been stable for a while. Portable generation for power has gone in to Paradise Gardens as of today. Patterson’s Road won’t have power as there has been what he called “massive destruction” in that area. Smith says there are no water issues so far, all the water has passed testing. The roads are “fine,” he says. Tree damage is a concern and the rail system has been damaged in the fire, which is affecting how fuel is reaching the community.

16:07 – When residents do come back, Hay River will open under an evacuation notice. That’s level one of three, below an order and an alert.

16:06 – Glenn Smith, town manager, is running reporters through the re-entry plan.

“It’s really an exercise in risk management,” says Smith. “The fire continues to have a significant impact on the health of our community, really from many perspectives.”



Smith says the plan focuses on “containing the fire” before people can come back. He says that means completing tightlining and blacklining – firefighting terms that basically mean scraping away fuel and extinguishing hotspots around the perimeter of the community.

Hay River will be using a “staged re-entry,” Smith says, but it’s basically the same staged re-entry as Yellowknife: essential workers first, everyone else second, special health needs last. In Hay River’s case, there is a separate group: people in “compromised areas,” meaning those the wildfire hit. Those residents will need to wait a little longer.

16:02 – Mayor Kandis Jameson starts the Hay River press conference. “It will be four weeks this Sunday” since the evacuation, she says. “It’s been a long haul.”

Jameson says there is “challenging weather to get through” before conditions can be assessed for a possible return.

15:58 – Hay River’s press conference starts imminently.

15:56 – The NWT’s health authority just put out a list of health services Yellowknifers can expect from Monday.

15:48 – Our first advertisers are now appearing on Cabin Radio’s all-new business restart page for Yellowknife. If you’re a resident, go check out the services and offers. If you’re a business, you can advertise there on a pay-what-you-can basis. Can’t afford advertising right now? It’s free for you. Go check out the page and fill out the form.

15:19 – Welcome back to the big smoke. This is Ollie in downtown Yellowknife, taking you through the remainder of the day. We have a 4pm Town of Hay River press conference about its new re-entry plan coming up. Not much else is anticipated this afternoon and evening – but you never know.



15:13 – Handing back over to Ollie who is home in Yellowknife!

15:11 – The NWT Power Corporation says it is beginning work to restore power to some areas of Fort Smith. Parts of the community haven’t had power for weeks.

14:47 – Highway 7 in the NWT and Highway 77 in BC reopened, nearly a week after closing because of a wildfire. Highway 77’s reopening comes with some restrictions.

14:46 – NWT Fire says fire activity on the Hay River/Kátł’odeeche First Nation/Kakisa fireis beginning to pick up in a few areas to the west and east of Hay River as warming and drying continues. Crews are working hard to eliminate hot spots and to stop the fire from advancing toward Hay River and KFN.

“Tomorrow, warm, sunny day expected with winds from the southeast and temperatures reaching 21 degrees. This is meaningful especially for the fingers of fire within the Kátł’odeeche First Nation Reserve land as it may push fire to the west in areas where line is not secure,” said the wildfire agency.

14:32 – Good news from the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment – there is funding available to help you cover your September childcare fees if your child attends a licensed program and you were affected by an evacuation order.

Here’s the update in full:

“If you have a child between the ages of 6-11 years old who attends a licensed early learning and child care program in a community affected by an evacuation order in September, new funding is being provided to cover September fees.



“The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is distributing additional funding to ensure this age group receives support. Funding will be provided from the Department to licensed programs (including centre-based programs, and family day homes). Families do not need to apply for it. If you have already paid your September fees, you may be refunded or you may see this funding applied to the month of October. Please be patient with programs as they work to make these arrangements.

“The Department previously announced offering 100% of Child Care Fee Reduction Subsidies for licensed programs for the month of September to support families and licensed programs with financial challenges. The Child Care Fee Reduction Subsidy is available for children age five and under.”

14:11 – We’ll continue to add to this story about the Town of Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation have publishing re-entry plans giving residents a sense of how they’ll be brought home once the wildfire threat ends.

14:07 – Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation have released their re-entry plans. Ollie will have a story on these plans soon, but if you want to read them yourself right now we’ve linked to the plans in the community names at the beginning of the sentence. 

13:50 – We just got a message from someone saying there is a black dog running around on the highway about 130 km north of Fort Providence. They weren’t able to safely pull over and catch it but are hoping someone else might be able to – or at least slow down and make sure you don’t hit the dog if you are driving that stretch today.

13:40 – If you want a quick summary of what’s going on with the wildfires in your area, we’re still keeping this wildfire updates story updated as new information comes out.

13:34 – Another update from Garth at the 60th Parallel Park: “These awesome guys from the Barrhead Fire Departmemnt, stopped in to say hi at the 60th Parallel. They were deployed in YK and Hay River and surrounding area. They are now headed home, a huge shout out to Jesse (right) and the guys for doing what they do. Drive safe guys and come back for a fishing trip.”

13:29 – We just set up a new page where we want all Yellowknife businesses to advertise their reopening day, any temporary hours, and any products or services they want to mention. You do not need to pay to advertise on this page – please only pay what you can. See this page for details and use the form to get your advertisement on Cabin Radio. Let’s get people back into local businesses as quickly as we can.



12:14 – The GNWT has now confirmed what Aastha just reported: it is completely changing its operation in Calgary, telling all evacuees needing flights to get to the Radisson Hotel on 36 St NE, whether or not you have a flight confirmation. If that’s you, go as soon as you can. Flights will be waiting.

12:08 – From my colleague Aastha: Calls and emails aren’t returned. Flight confirmations never arrive. Planes back to Yellowknife come and go, but some evacuees despair of ever getting on one. The GNWT’s re-entry flight system is leaving some people behind, figuratively and literally.

12:04 – Dee, who left Calgary for Peace River this morning, says, “We are travelling with three cats who are wearing seatbelt harnesses (an upgrade from the kennels on the way down) and harmonizing their cries in an extremely pitiful backseat choir.” Pictured is Plum (Plummifer Aniston), the only one willing to cooperate for a photo.

Dee says there has been a little rain on the highway so far.

11:46 – Firefighters use tools to expose deep-burning hot spots that will later be extinguished with water in the Wood Buffalo Complex fire area on September 7, 2023.

Firefighters use tools to expose deep-burning hot spots that will later be extinguished with water in the Wood Buffalo Complex fire on September 7, 2023. Photo: Wood Buffalo National Park
Photo: Wood Buffalo National Park

11:38 – “Firefighters are patrolling the eastern Highway 5 portion of the fire perimeter for any remaining hot spots, but most of the work in this area is done. Good news!” Said Wood Buffalo National Park in its Friday morning update.

Work is continuing to extinguish hot spots along the perimeter line south of Fort Smith and along the eastern perimeter lines within and just outside of the Wood Buffalo National Park boundary near Fort Fitzgerald.

11:33 – Kátł’odeeche First Nation says its chief and council have passed a motion for a re-entry plan that is scheduled to be released at 2pm today.



11:26 – The Town of Hay River will hold a press conference about its re-entry plan at 4pm. The town says it expects the plan to be made public before that time.

11:16 – And here are the Yellowknife Co-op’s hours, starting today:

  • Food Store – 8am to 9pm
  • Gas Bar – 6am to 9pm (normally open until 11pm)
  • Pharmacy (weekdays) – 9am to 7pm 
  • Pharmacy (Saturday) – 10am to 6pm

11:00 – Ollie is driving around Yellowknife right now and reports the uptown Independent is also open from noon until 8pm today.

10:59 – Julie has created this Facebook group for people to share their NWT evacuation experiences.

10:54 – The Yellowknife dump (or as they prefer to call it, the solid waste facility) will be open from 11am until 4pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tipping fees will be waived for waste caused by the evacuation. 

10:52 – Yellowknife’s downtown Independent will be open from noon until 8pm today.

10:51 – Wood Buffalo National Park is calling for messages of appreciation, encouragement or support for fire fighting crews, which it will then pass on to the right people.

To have a message shared, email or message WBNP on Facebook.



10:48 – Enterprise residents can apply for Disaster Financial Assistance. The financial assistance is designed to help individuals, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and community governments with recovery costs, like repairing or replacing homes and essential contents.

Evacuees currently in Peace River can get help filling out forms and be advised on next steps by a pathfinder, who will be at the Baytex Centre’s (9810 73 Ave) community room on the second floor on Sunday, September 10 from 1-5pm.

If you can’t attend in-person, you can email for help.

10:43 – The Yellowknife Women’s Society is calling for Yellowknife volunteers to help with re-opening tasks at the Women’s Centre today from 11am onward so that the space is ready when residents return home. Tasks will include things like cleaning, laundry, and clearing out the fridge. If you can help (say, you’ve already cleaned your fridge and are generous enough to do another), head to 5610 Franklin Avenue.  

10:34 – Good morning! Let’s start off with the grouse Kate found on her deck (“Gone to the birds,” she said) when she got home to Yellowknife.

10:28 – This is Ollie handing over to Sarah Pruys in Calgary. Updates are available on the air every half-hour on our audio live stream. Sarah will take on the text updates from here!

10:24 – These photos are from drone footage a TV network shot at Lady Slipper Lodge in Fort Simpson. (Yes, someone actually sent a whole TV crew to come see us.) There I am, hard at work a couple of weeks ago…

Ollie at work on the deck of Lady Slipper Lodge. Photo: Submitted
Lady Slipper Lodge in Fort Simpson. Photo: Submitted

Not gonna lie, as emergency newsrooms go, that deck was fantastic. I wanted to share this to say thank you once more to Mike and Lynn at Lady Slipper Lodge, who did a huge amount for me and for Emily over the course of three weeks.



We’re back in Yellowknife now but the kindness of Fort Simpson, Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ will not be soon forgotten.

On that front, reporting is coming up from me about Fort Simpson’s own wildfire concerns. The village has escaped any serious threat this summer, but that doesn’t mean all is well – there are real worries about how prepared the village is for a future wildfire.

10:10 – How’s the fruit fly situation in your Yellowknife house? How are you doing if you’re a South Slave evacuee in Alberta? How is the trip home if you’re a Yellowknife evacuee on the move? Let me know.

9:59 – From us so far today:

9:51 – From Jay Boast about Hay River’s upcoming re-entry plan:

“We’re excited about Hay River having a re-entry plan because that allows the GNWT to look at that plan, think about the logistics involved, and think about the support needs that have to happen. The dates will be determined by the fire conditions, mostly, but also by all of the logistic issues that go into the re-entry to those communities – things that we’ve talked about before, like having basic services, being able to make sure that people are safe when they get home, all of those things. But having the plan does mean planning can start to proceed, and gives us some time to get those plans in place to make the eventual re-entry smoother and faster.”

9:29 – The City of Yellowknife is again seeking volunteers to help drive people home from the airport on today’s flights.

9:16 – Quick addendum from Erica (see 8:34 entry): the fog apparently clears up just north of High Level and “the Timmies lineup was no more than 10 minutes.”



9:12 – Just saw a quick note come in suggesting that Canadian North’s discounted Edmonton-Yellowknife fares might be fast disappearing. I haven’t been able to independently verify that but I think it’s very sensible, if you want a cheap flight back, to be getting on airlines’ websites ASAP at this point.

9:07 – Good morning to Garth at the 60th Parallel Territorial Park. He sends this photo:

60th Parallel Territorial Park on September 8, 2023. Photo: Supplied

“Very nice morning here, 6C and sunny,” Garth writes. “Nice and quiet so far and it’s a perfect time to travel. Had some folks from Yellowknife stay in the campground last night so they are ready for the last leg of the journey home. Have a safe day.”

9:02 – More from Jay Boast: “We have heard the drive has been fairly smooth, that traffic hasn’t been much of an issue. There haven’t been the lineups going back that we saw on the way out.

“Originally, we were worried there would be this mad dash and that would cause significant delays if there was too much of a volume– if we saw the same volume going back that went out. Now we’re actually shifting to trying to encourage people that by Sunday, it is time to go home.

“If people are staying just to stay, now is the time to shift the focus to returning home.”

9:00 – Thursday’s Deh Cho Bridge gantry figure was 821 vehicles heading north, which isn’t too many more than the day before. As we’ve reported this morning, the return to Yellowknife is more of a trundle, by road, than a surge.

8:58 – From people helping the re-entry flight process on the ground in Calgary, I am told that if you’re an evacuee in the city and you pre-registered but have not heard back about your flight, getting yourself to the Radisson Hotel – 6620 36 St NE – will allow them to figure out getting you on a bus, and then on one of the multiple planes leaving today.



Note that this has not come from any official GNWT communications channel and I cannot immediately reach anyone to back this up, but we’re also now at a point where multiple people in Calgary are writing to us asking what they are supposed to do. I am confident in the advice I’ve just been given by the people on the ground in Calgary trying to make the flights work. In Schwarzenegger voice: Get to the Radisson!

8:50 – From Jay Boast to me just now, regarding people who haven’t had flight confirmations yet: “We certainly have heard that people have been having issues in terms of confirmation of the registration, and we have our IT team is trying to sort that out. We understand that people are feeling like a long period of time is going by before they are hearing about their planes. You will be hearing about your flight when you are put on a manifest. We do ask you to be ready – to be in a position to be ready to go – when you get the information about your plane.”

8:34 – From Erica: “Currently really thick fog starting maybe 30 km south of High Level.”

8:31 – Listen again to the full interview with the GNWT’s Jay Boast on the flight confirmation issue people are having, plus the territorial government switching from initial worries about a surge of homecoming Yellowknifers to now trying to encourage people to come home. Key points will appear in the live text in a moment, too.

8:23 – Here’s more from RCMP on the “alarming uptick” in speeding, particularly from the NWT border to Enterprise.

8:16 – We just had the GNWT’s Jay Boast on the air with some useful information for air travellers, stand by and I’ll transcribe some of that here.

Meanwhile, RCMP just issued a warning for people driving from the NWT border to Enterprise to slow down. People are getting ticketed for doing 140 km/h or more in what is a posted 90 km/h limit.

7:44 – This came in from the GNWT last night. Long story short, income disruption payments are now not being taxed.



“The Government of the Northwest Territories has adjusted the Evacuee Income Disruption Support (EIDS) program. Starting immediately, eligible residents will now receive the full $750 as a one-time payment, without any withholding tax.

“Initial EIDS payments from the GNWT deducted a 10-percent withholding tax, meaning that residents received $675 instead of the full $750. Residents who previously received a payment of $675 will soon receive an additional payment of $75.

“Since the EIDS replaces employment income it is taxable and under normal circumstances the withholding tax would be applied. However, in these extraordinary circumstances the withholding tax is not being applied, but EIDS payments will remain taxable. All residents who receive an EIDS payment will be issued a T4A slip and must declare the $750 on their 2023 tax returns.”

The GNWT also put out some figures associated with the income disruption and travel funding programs.

There have been 8,300 applications for the two programs. So far, 800 income disruption payments have gone out and around 4,600 travel payments have been sent.

7:28 – Organizers of Yellowknife’s annual mud run say the 2023 edition, originally planned for September 16, will no longer go ahead.

7:16 – On that note, if you are heading home by road or by air today, please keep us posted. Email any personal travel updates that you’re happy to share.

For people flying home: Did you get a flight notification from the GNWT? How is the travel to the airport and the airport itself? How was the flight, did your bags and pets get on board OK? How is your commercial flight going, was it cancelled or delayed or did it leave on time? What’s the situation at Yellowknife Airport?



For people driving home: Where are you leaving from? Who’s with you? What’s your travel plan? How is gas availability along the way, or accommodation if you need it? How are the highway conditions – the weather, the smoke, the traffic? Any tips for drivers following along behind you?

7:14 – Good morning to Stephen, setting off from High Level, who writes: “Light fog, seems like little traffic so far. We saw a lot of NWT plates on the road coming up from Edmonton yesterday, and lots of polar bear plates wherever we stopped. Two large Vs of Canada Geese high overhead flying south!”

7:07 – Worth noting it’s really quite smoky in Yellowknife right now. On our air quality map, we’re deep into unhealthy territory.

6:57 – Our morning show begins now! Get the Cabin Radio app for free from your app store or listen live online. Lots of great music with wildfire and travel updates from me in the gaps.

6:51 – All is quiet on the highways. No issues are showing on the GNWT highway conditions map except the ongoing Highway 7 closure. Last night, BC’s wildfire service told us there was no update on the fire causing that closure. In northern Alberta, traffic cameras show the roads are clear of traffic and visibility doesn’t look too bad.

6:46 – Also from Emily: Yellowknifers are heading home, but the opening two days were more a trundle than a surge. As some make the long journey back, it’s more complicated for others.

6:30 – We’ll check highway conditions in a moment. First, new from my colleague Emily: “We did the best we could.” This summer alone, more than half a dozen communities – thousands of people – leaned on High Level for help when wildfires struck.

6:17 – Hay River’s re-entry plan, without fixed dates for the time being, is due out later. Here’s what Mayor Kandis Jameson said about it at last night’s press conference:



“Tomorrow, Hay River town council will be reviewing the re-entry plan. Our group, along with stakeholders, have been working on a plan that will get you home as quickly and as safely as possible.

“The re-entry plan will be made public tomorrow afternoon and the dates for return will be considered at a council meeting on Monday.

“Once the warm weather subsides we will have a good indication of when the risk for citizens will be reduced to an acceptable level. This will be reviewed by council again on Monday before dates are announced.

“We would like you to come home and be safe. Our thoughts are with those that have lost their livelihoods and their homes.”

6:14 – Oh, hello. Fancy seeing you here. Or there. Where exactly are you again?