After more than a month of being away from home, residents of Hay River, NWT got the green light to return home starting Saturday morning.
The announcement came Friday night in a post on Facebook.
The town of nearly 4,000 people has been evacuated since August 13, when a fast-moving wildfire threatened the community, as well as the nearby Kátł’odeeche First Nation and Enterprise, NWT, a community that was directly affected by the fire.
The fire also remains extremely close to the community, 500 meters from the hospital and 10 meters from Highway 2. However, firefighters say enough containment work has been done for the community to safely return.
This is Hay River’s second evacuation this year, the first occurring in May due to a wildfire that burned homes and structures in Kátł’odeeche.
It is also the third evacuation in two years, as the entire community was forced to flee last year’s devastating floods.
Paradise Gardens, a community south of Hay River, was one of the areas hardest hit by flooding, and then hit again by fires. Officials said at a recent news conference that they suspected four properties in Paradise Gardens had been damaged or lost.
As residents return to Hay River, they can expect to have a full range of services as businesses have been preparing for people to return.
Kátł’odeeche First Nation says its residents can begin returning Sunday at 9 a.m.
As people return home, Breaking: will provide live updates that you can follow here. Updates appear in descending order, from newest to oldest. Please refresh your browser to get the latest updates.
11:36 – CBC’s Travis Burke says Gateway Gas and Convenience in Enterprise is open.
The village of Enterprise was hit directly by the wildfire in mid-August, causing widespread damage.
The gas station was important as it was one of the few along the south northwest highways.
11:23 – Burke is on the outskirts of Enterprise and describes the weather as clear and sunny.
He says he doesn’t see much traffic other than transportation and fuel trucks.
Burke will be in Hay River covering the return of CBC North.
11:12 – Firefighters warn people returning to Hay River that they will see many burned areas, as well as some damaged buildings and power poles.
Frank McKay, fire information officer for the NWT, says people may also see some outbreaks.
He says people should stay away from burned areas because they are unstable.
10:59 – The new World road conditions map updated to show Highway 2 open from the Highway 1 interchange to Hay River.
10:24 – The chief of the Kátł’odeeche First Nation reserve says people should bring drinking water when they return home on Sunday.
April Martel, head of Kátł’odeeche, says people should not drink from the tap when they get home.
“We’re actually looking at our water samples right now and the air quality due to the fact that particles might have gotten into some of the systems. So we’re doing that right now to make sure we can boil water. We advise “, said.
Kátł’odeeche residents can return on Sunday at 9 am
9:44 – Residents were allowed to return to their homes from 9 am. Breaking: has not heard from anyone who has arrived yet.
After Yellowknife was evacuated, many residents once again found themselves with fruit flies and rotting food in their refrigerators. The same is likely to happen in Hay River, although probably significantly worse, considering the length of the evacuation.
9:37 – Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson welcomed residents in a post on Facebook.
He warned that it will take time for everything to return to normal.
“Let’s all come together to support our friends and neighbors who have lost their livelihoods, as well as those businesses that have been closed for over a month,” he wrote.
“It’s a good opportunity to go out and reconnect in cafes, restaurants or your favorite stores.”
9:36 – The territorial government tweeted that Highway 2, the road leading to the Hay River, is open.
“Welcome home and drive carefully as you return to Hay River.”
#NWThwy2 It’s open. Welcome home and drive carefully as you return to Hay River. Fire crews continue to work on this road. Slow down and give them room to work as you pass. https://t.co/QomG2MUZ0e pic.twitter.com /ge52BaEE7z
9:12 – Hay River residents are posting on Facebook about the ash conditions in High Level, Alta.
9:08 – According to the NWT highway map, there are some closures, including the Highway 3 interchange near Kakisa. If that road remains closed, it should have little effect on people returning, as Hay River evacuees headed south.
Roads from Alberta to the Hay River Access Road are open, according to the road map. Although the access road says it is closed on the website, neither the city nor the territorial government has made any closure announcements.
If you’re from Hay River and have made it home, feel free to send photos and updates to firstname.lastname@example.org