Fort Smith residents get to return home on Monday, more than a month after wildfires around the town of 2,600 triggered an evacuation.
A barricade at the intersections of Highway 2 and Highway 5 was due to lift at 6am, allowing vehicles to make the drive of a little over two hours along Highway 5 home to the community.
On Saturday, the Town of Fort Smith had set a formal Monday reopening time of 8am.
The first NWT government-backed flight from Alberta is due to arrive in Fort Smith shortly after 10am, carrying around 60 evacuees who had stayed in or around Peace River and Grande Prairie.
Flights throughout the day will bring home residents from Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray and High Level, with the last due in shortly before 9pm.
Residents are asked to stop at the town’s recreation centre for an information package on their return.
Fort Smith is now surrounded by the burn areas of two of the 12 largest wildfires anywhere in Canada this summer – one to the north and one to the south – each measuring well over 300,000 hectares.
The community is also significantly changed by the defences fire crews have built, and work has now begun to reclaim some of the fire guards constructed by heavy machinery.
Residents were ordered to leave the town because of the wildfire threat on August 12. Many who sought shelter in nearby Hay River were then the subject of a separate evacuation order for that town the following day.
As it reopens, Fort Smith will move to an evacuation alert, meaning residents should be ready to leave again at short notice, and a fire ban remains in place.
All municipal services will be back to full capacity as of Monday, the town stated, with landfill fees waived until September 30 and free curbside pick-up for yard and household waste.
What’s open in Fort Smith?
These are the publicly available opening hours of stores and services in the town.