Fort Smith residents can begin returning to the community on Monday starting at 8 a.m.
The city made the official announcement on Facebook that residents can return on Monday. Highway barriers will be removed at 6 a.m. and the evacuation order will be lifted at 8 a.m. This was always the city’s plan, although officials said it depended on the weather.
Fort Smith City Councilwoman Louise Beaulieu says residents should expect to return to “a very horrible scene.”
“When they enter they will see a lot of burned area,” he said.
Patients at Northern Lights Special Care Home in Fort Smith, NWT, will not be able to return until health care operations reach full capacity.
David McGuire, spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Health and Human Services Authority, issued a Press release around noon Saturday detailing what services residents can expect if they return in the coming days.
Fort Smith’s emergency department is expected to be operating at about 85 percent capacity on Monday, the tentative return date for residents.
The news release says the emergency department will have 24-hour on-site services, but some patients requiring admission may need to be transferred to other facilities.
The inpatient unit is expected to have reduced capacity, with four of five beds available. Patients may be transferred depending on their needs.
The midwifery unit will operate at reduced capacity. Pregnant women with urgent concerns will be admitted to the emergency department until September 21. After that, the unit is expected to operate at pre-evacuation levels.
The laboratory will be operating at full capacity starting Monday, while primary care will be at 50 percent capacity until September 22.
Children and family services, as well as community counseling services, will operate at reduced capacity.
The news release says NTHSSA will encourage staff to wear masks to reduce the impacts of respiratory viruses on the workforce.
In a Facebook post, Wood Buffalo National Park said the portion of the fire closest to Fort Smith has been contained or 90 percent controlled.
A controlled fire perimeter means that there have been enough extinguishing actions to ensure that the fire does not spread further within the perimeter.
However, Highway 5 remains closed for safety reasons and limited visibility. Essential workers will be allowed through the closures if conditions are safe enough.
The city of Fort Smith’s return plan says vulnerable populations, including those requiring special medical care, should wait until all services are available again.
Although the evacuation order will be lifted, an evacuation alert will remain in place, meaning residents should be prepared to leave again if the situation changes.