Firefighting equipment in the centre of Fort Smith in late August 2023. Photo: Parks Canada
Hay River recently held a thank-you gathering for all the work that went into saving the town from wildfires. Yellowknife tried and failed to hold a welcome-home event under orange skies.
That has Fort Smith residents, who spent 37 days under an evacuation order this summer, wondering: when is our big day to come together and thank firefighters?
“I haven’t heard squat about what we’re going to do to acknowledge this work,” said councillor Mike Couvrette at a meeting last week.
“Why hasn’t anything been done? I’m embarrassed to talk to firefighters.”
Similar questions have been asked online. Now another town councillor, Dana Fergusson, says a meeting will take place to plan something.
“I hear you, Fort Smith,” Fergusson wrote on Facebook on Sunday.
“It looks like we want to have a community gathering to give thanks and appreciation, to come together after the wildfire evacuation in our community, so let’s plan one.”
A meeting will take place at the Pelican Restaurant from 1:30pm on Monday. “Bring your ideas, enthusiasm, your planning caps and positivity,” Fergusson wrote.
Previously, in last week’s meeting of town council, Fergusson – whose updates from Fort Smith during the evacuation were relied upon by many residents – had said some people were already stretched too thin by the return to normality to contemplate organizing something extra.
“All the normal things of life are happening again, and sometimes it’s hard to take on another task,” she said at the time, responding to Couvrette’s concern.
“Everywhere I go, I’m giving hugs to people and everyone’s really happy with all the things that are here. And lots of other people in their own little meetings have done their own things, right? Lots of groups have got together.”
Deputy mayor Jay Macdonald, who said he had stayed behind to help in Fort Smith as a first responder, added: “I think a proclamation from the town with a thank-you would be much appreciated. But personally … I don’t need a barbecue or a big thank-you or anything like that.”
The town is now working on a formal proclamation of thanks.
“At certain points, like, 500 people were in our community fighting this beast,” said Couvrette.
“I really appreciated being able to come home and my house was still standing. Maybe there is something we can do as individuals: take a picture of your house, get the name of a firefighter and then you can send them a postcard saying thank-you. Mail it off to them, something as simple as that.”
Councillor Kevin Campbell, who said he had also stayed behind during the evacuation, said: “I’m just happy that we’re all back in our homes and life’s getting back to normal – and back to work.
“Thirty-seven days without a paycheque is a long time. I’m not worried about any thank-yous, or anything.”