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Flights begin as evacuees plan Hay River, Fort Smith returns

A Canadian North flight carrying evacuees home arrives at Hay River's airport on September 17, 2023. Photo: Trung Bui
A Canadian North flight carrying evacuees home arrives at Hay River's airport on September 17, 2023. Photo: Trung Bui

More evacuees are heading home to Hay River and the Kátł’odeeche First Nation on Sunday, with Fort Smith opening to residents on Monday.

Sunday is expected to be a busier day of travel than Saturday. Many Hay River residents had already targeted Sunday as the town’s tentative reopening date, before that was brought forward to Saturday at the last minute.

Sunday is also the first day for Kátł’odeeche First Nation to return, and the day on which residents reliant on NWT government-provided flights are being taken home to Hay River.

The GNWT says flights on Sunday are repatriating Hay River residents who had been staying in Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, High Level, Edmonton and Calgary.

A Canadian North Boeing 737-300 was among the first to land in Hay River on Sunday, where crews from De’ton Cho Logistics had arrived from Yellowknife to help marshal aircraft and assist with ground handling and baggage.



Two Canadian North jets were operating flights from Grande Prairie and Edmonton, while a Summit Air ATR-72 was bringing home evacuees from Edmonton and High Level.

A North Cariboo Air RJ100 was operating flights bringing home evacuees from Calgary and Fort McMurray.

Fort Smith flights are due to take place on Monday. Five aircraft will bring evacuees back from the same Alberta cities, the GNWT stated.

A barrier at the intersections of Highway 2 and Highway 5 will lift at 6am on Monday, allowing people to drive Highway 5 home to Fort Smith by the time it officially reopens at 8am.



There were no reported highway issues between Alberta and the South Slave on Sunday, though Highway 1 remains subject to temporary closures to the west between the Highway 3 intersection and Jean Marie River because of a wildfire.

Air quality was particularly poor across northern Alberta and the South Slave on Sunday, even by recent standards.

Residents reaching Hay River were coming home to Air Quality Index ratings of 500 or more on Sunday morning, where anything above 300 is considered “emergency conditions.”

The Town of Hay River said its town office will reopen with normal hours as of Monday, with water, sewer, garbage and landfill services operating normally.

The recreation centre, pool and community centre will be closed as they are being used to support fire personnel.

What’s open in Hay River?

These are the publicly available updates from Hay River stores and services:

Home Hardware
Saturday: 10am-5pm
Sunday: Closed
Monday onward: 9am-6pm

Normal working hours resume Monday.



Ptarmigan Inn: Hotel
Open and accepting reservations

Ptarmigan Inn: Keys Dining
Saturday and Sunday: 8am-2pm, 5-9pm

Ring’s Pharmacy
Sunday: Closed
Monday onward: 9am-6pm

Super A Foods
Groceries: 12-6pm daily
Gas: 8am-8pm daily

(Got an update for this list? Let us know.)