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As it happened: Registration opens for South Slave flights home

Canadian North aircraft in Yellowknife on September 10, 2023. Photo: Trung Bui
Canadian North aircraft in Yellowknife on September 10, 2023. Photo: Trung Bui


The GNWT has begun a three-day process of taking names for flights home from Alberta to Hay River, the Kátł’odeeche First Nation and Fort Smith.

Thousands of evacuees are hoping to return home to those communities in the coming days.

Hay River and KFN held off declaring return dates on Monday, saying fire activity nearby was too volatile. Fort Smith has tentatively set a date of September 18 for the general public to return, though that is subject to change if conditions worsen.

The registration window for flights home runs from Tuesday until 8pm on Thursday. No defined flight dates or times have so far been given.



Meanwhile, the return to Yellowknife appears almost complete. Around 466 vehicles were recorded heading north through the Deh Cho bridge toll gantry on Monday, a significant drop from the weekend, with more than 5,000 vehicles now believed to have returned. Evacuee re-entry flights are understood to be concluding in the next day or two.

On this page, we brought you updates throughout Tuesday.

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.

You can also check out our guide to how Yellowknife businesses are reopening and the offers they have for returning residents.



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  • To tell us about someone amazing who deserves a shoutout for what they’re doing or did, email us here
  • Heading home? Please email us updates about highway conditions or your flight experience
  • Still an evacuee? Tell us how it’s going where you are. What are your concerns and what’s keeping you going right now?
  • Send photos and video of your experience by emailing us here

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Updates appeared below, latest first. All times are MT.

Live text reporters: Ollie Williams and Emily Blake in Yellowknife

17:34 – We’re going to wrap up for the day with a plea from NWT Fire for people with firefighting training to come forward.

“We are looking for help with mop-up and other basic firefighting activities on our fires. Paid, rewarding work beginning as early as next week! North Slave has most urgent need,” the ad states.

I wonder when the next full training course is, and how many people might sign up after this summer.

That’s it from us today. Back each day till everyone has had the chance to go home. Enjoy your evening, all.



16:33 – From Emily: A flood during Yellowknife’s evacuation has ruined thousands of items at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and caused damage that’ll take weeks to repair.

16:07 – Fort Smith’s high school says it will resume on September 25, with student registration and meet-the-teacher on September 22.

16:06 – In other news, there’s a farmers’ market in Yellowknife from 5:15pm. (I am fascinated to see what’s on the harvesters’ table this week. What the heck could be left that survived the evacuation and wasn’t already turned into a cassoulet for a firefighter?)

15:48 – The Co-op in Yellowknife says its online shopping service has resumed.

Remember, we have a page listing all kinds of offers and services available from Yellowknife businesses as they reopen. If you have a business in the city, you can advertise there for free.

15:47 – Here’s a little close-up look at the fire break just beyond Yellowknife’s sand pits:

A piece of heavy machinery in a fire break outside Yellowknife on September 12, 2023. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
A fire break on Yellowknife's western periphery in September 2023. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
A fire break on Yellowknife's western periphery in September 2023. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

15:29 – Hello! It’s Ollie. Just completed the first dog walk out to a fire break. No idea what the rules are around wandering into giant Yellowknife fire breaks but a brief inspection told the dog and I there was heavy equipment operating, so we naffed off back into the forest. Photos to follow. Spoiler alert, the photos will look like trees, then no trees.

15:15 – Handing the live back over to Ollie.



13:53 – The latest from Parks Canada on the Wood Buffalo complex:

Unseasonably warm, dry and windy conditions continue today. A high of 20C is forecast with relative humidity near 20 percent and south winds gusting up to 25 kilometres per hour.

Crews saw “vigorous” fire behaviour yesterday, with similar levels of fire activity expected today.

A small downtrend in the weather is forecast tomorrow, with cooler temperatures, high humidity and a chance of light showers.

13:41 – In a letter to families, students and staff, Yellowknife Education District 1 superintendent and CEO Jameel Aziz says while all 12 bus routes will be up and running for the first day of school, the process of issuing bus passes has been delayed by three weeks. It says anyone with a bus pass from last year can use that for a month while the new passes are being processed.

“We expect that the startup will cause a bit of confusion, we thank you for being patient with us and the system while we work to get things sorted over the next few weeks.”

12:25 – Canada Post says your mail is back to normal in Yellowknife and also in Colville Lake.

“The delivery service alerts for Yellowknife and Colville Lake have been lifted as regular delivery operations have resumed,” a spokesperson just stated by email.



That means Enterprise, Fort Smith, Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation are the remaining areas with no current service.

12:05 – From Ollie: Yellowknife’s school bus operator says all routes will start on Thursday this week, including those previously cancelled through a lack of drivers. Here’s an update with important information on how the bus pass system will work in the opening weeks.

11:44 – The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority says the Yellowknife Community Counselling Program is open for drop-in and crisis supports.

“If you have questions about managing stress, mood, sleep, or feel you/your family members are struggling, support is available.”

You can contact the community counselling office at 1-867-767-9110 ext. 3, or the child and youth counsellor office at 1-867-767-9110 ext. 41716 or 867-445-6332.

The authority is requesting anyone with access to an employee and family assistance program through their workplace access mental health services through that program before accessing the community counselling program.

Other mental health supports:

  • NWT Help Line: 1-800-661-0844
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text “CONNECT” to 6868
  • Wellness Together Canada: 1-867-585-0445 (adults) and 1-888-668-6810 (youth)
  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566
  • First Nation and Inuit Hope for Wellness: 1-855-242-3310 or chat online
  • Family Violence Crisis Line: 1-866-223-7775

11:30 – The latest update on the Hay River/ K’átł’odeeche/Kakisa/Enterprise fire (SS052) from NWT Fire:



Hot, dry conditions are expected to continue today with a high of 25 degrees and relative humidity of 25 percent. The wildfire agency says that, along with winds from the west, could cause fire activity and growth to the east.

The most eastward finger of the fire grew further overnight, NWT Fire says, reaching the Birch Creek area and getting very close to Highway 5. There is a chance it could reach the highway today. NWT Fire says that along with smoke from planned ignition operations could lead to highway closures.

NWT fire says defences on the west side of the river held through difficult conditions yesterday as well as work on the first finger of the fire on Highway 5, which is closest to the river and Riverwoods Estates. It says “significant burned area” around the reserve’s most populated area is providing some protection against the approaching wildfire.

11:21 – NWT Fire has issued a reminder that the risk for wildfires across the territory remains high. So if you must have a fire to cook or keep warm, make sure to keep it under control and stir-soak-repeat to make sure it’s out.

“We all need to take responsibility, avoid fires where we can, and if we must have a fire make sure we aren’t the cause of a bigger problem. We cannot afford to have any more human caused fires!”

Fire bans remain in place for the South Slave and North Slave regions. That includes fireworks and bear bangers (unless in an emerency).

9:16 – From Ollie: The Town of Hay River had hoped to attach dates to its re-entry plan in an update by 8pm last night, but town council said they were delaying the announcement due to “volatile” wildfire conditions.

9:12 – From Simona: Some residents of Fort Simpson have worried that low water levels could mean this year’s ferry service ends soon. The mayor said that’s just a rumour but the season could be interrupted if there’s no rain in the next two weeks.



9:09 – Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s emergency preparedness minister, toured several NWT communities affected by wildfires yesterday, and spoke to reporters about disaster funding assistance.

9:07 – Morning all. We have a few stories on our front page this morning if you haven’t already checked them out.

9:01 – This is very rude of me as I only just got here, but I’m going to hand you over to Emily Blake for the next little while. Back shortly!

9:00 – Traffic heading home to Yellowknife appears to have peaked at the weekend.

The Deh Cho bridge toll gantry figure for northbound traffic was 466 on Monday, down from 1,097 on Saturday and 731 on Sunday. That’s actually the lowest figure in a week, so it’s fair to say the vast majority of Yellowknifers who left by car are now back (though I realize there are still some people either making their way home or holding off, for various reasons).

8:56 – By the way, the territorial state of emergency has been extended until at least September 18. This doesn’t have any bearing on any return dates for communities and, in all probability, has zero impact on your life. Carry on.

8:54 – Good morning! It’s a sunny but still kinda smoky Tuesday in Yellowknife. If you’re from Hay River, KFN or Fort Smith and want a flight home from Alberta, registration is open. Go fill out the form.