After five weeks away from her home in Hay River, NWT, Mavis Klause says she’s ready to return.
“It’s not easy being away,” he said.
“Overall, they’ve treated us well… But it’s just not our home.”
Klause, who has lived in Hay River for 50 years, says the evacuation has been hard on her.
But that is finally coming to an end. Hay River residents were cleared to return to the community beginning Saturday morning. Klause, who stayed at a hotel in Grande Prairie, Alta. She won’t be back until Sunday and she doesn’t expect to return to her house until Monday.
This is the second time this year that Klause has left Hay River due to fires, after the community of about 4,000 residents experienced its first evacuation order of the summer in May.
Firefighters working along the road
NWT Fire Information Officer Frank McKay spoke on CBC Weekend Saturday morning about what Hay River residents can expect as they drive back.
“At first, when you come into the community, you’ll see a lot of the area burned,” he said, pointing to damage to infrastructure and downed power poles.
“I suppose that might cause a little bit of trauma, but with essential workers returning to the community, there will be support services available.”
McKay says people driving from the south should expect to see the burned area when driving on Highway 1 and Highway 2 from Enterprise to Hay River.
He says crews are still working to address outbreaks as they occur and that drivers should use caution when driving.
“Maybe honk, but don’t stop and take pictures because it could disrupt the flow of traffic, the safety of other drivers on the road and also the safety of our staff on the ground,” he said.
McKay also warned the public to never venture into a burned area.
Hay River Mayor Welcomes Residents
Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson said she is relieved to finally be able to welcome residents back.
“It’s been a long road for all of us,” he said in an interview with CBC. Weekend.
“The residents of this community are top notch… It wasn’t good, but the people were amazing. I can’t emphasize that enough.”
Although residents are now allowed to return to their homes, Jameson says hotspots are expected in the area and a significant amount of smoke due to the fires’ proximity to the city.
“I think we’ll just have to live with the smoke,” he said.
The mayor says people with health issues can expect the Hay River hospital to need more time before things return to normal.
However, Jameson feels confident about allowing people to return, noting that the Kátł’odeeche First Nation will also allow people to return on Sunday morning.
Jameson says Hay River grocery store shelves are stocked and businesses are prepared for people to arrive. The mayor also says that services such as waste collection and water supply are back up and running, so the community can expect everything to be “pretty normal”.
Jameson says one day residents will be able to wake up and feel like things are back to normal in the community, and when that day comes, he hopes there will be a celebration.
“I can’t wait until we can do something fun…get together, talk, tell stories and laugh,” he said. “This community needs something like this.”