What you need to know about the NWT wildfires, as of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday:
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- Wildfire now about 10 miles northwest of Yellowknife
- The Northwest Territories government took over emergency arrangements for Yellowknife from the town.
- Evacuation alert issued for Yellowknife’s Kam Lake business district, Grace Lake and Engle industrial areas
- Evacuation Order Issued for Highway 3 from KM 284 to KM 329 – Yellowknife Limit
- Cots were set up at the Yellowknife Multiplex, the facility the city would use as an evacuation center.
- All City of Yellowknife facilities are closed to the public.
- Yellowknife under local state of emergency; NWT under state of emergency throughout the territory
- Highways 1 and 3 are open; Highways 2 and 5 are closed; The access road Jean Marie is closed
- The NWT government says don’t travel by road unless absolutely necessary, as roads could suddenly be closed if conditions become unsafe; see NWT road conditions map here
- Evacuation Orders Issued for Hay River, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Fort Smith, Enterprise and Jean Marie River Communities
- Evacuation orders for owners of cabins and homes on Route 3 of kilometers 284 and 329
- Evacuation order no later than Thursday for North Prosperous Lake, North Prelude Lake and all of River Lake
- Behchokǫ̀, Edzo, Frank Channel and Kakisa under evacuation alert
- North Slave region territorial parks closed Thursday, campers asked to vacate Reid Lake, Prelude Lake and Fred Henne parks
- Evacuees from the South Slave, including those from Grande Prairie, Alta, are now being asked to come to St. Albert, Alta, and register at Servus Place at 400 Campbell Road
- Telephone and internet interrupted in the South Slave region
- People can alert their loved ones that they are safe in the NWT Wildfire Safety Check facebook group
The NWT government has taken over as head of emergency measures for Yellowknife as a bushfire continues to threaten the town.
The announcement came in a press release shortly after 5:00 p.m. Wednesday. The release cited work the city had done to protect the city, such as building fire breaks on the west end and adding sprinklers.
The NWT may take responsibility for emergency measures as a result of the territorial state of emergency announced by Minister for Municipal and Community Affairs Shane Thompson on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, an evacuation order along Highway 3 has been extended to the Yellowknife municipal line as the fire burns about 17 kilometers west of the city.
NWT Fire said Wednesday morning that the order now covers kilometers 184 to 329 of the highway and that residents in this area “should leave as soon as it is safe.”
Cots have been set up at the Yellowknife Multiplex, the facility the city says would serve as an evacuation center if people are ordered to leave their homes.
The City of Yellowknife also closed all city facilities to the public effective Wednesday afternoon.
Territory parks in the North Slave region will also be closed starting Thursday afternoon. Visitors are asked to leave Reid Lake, Prelude Lake and Fred Henne parks by 1 p.m. Thursday. Anything left behind cannot be retrieved later, and NWT Parks says it is not responsible for any damage to campers or equipment left behind.
NWT Fire said strong winds are expected to push the fire east toward the city on Wednesday.
In a separate update at 11:46 a.m. Wednesday, NWT Fire said the fire has now passed Boundary Creek and moved along the highway to kilometer 212.
He said if the area doesn’t get rain, the fire could reach the outskirts of Yellowknife by the weekend.
“While rain is forecast, there are no guarantees,” the update reads.
The fire agency added that strong westerly winds gusting up to 30 to 35 kilometers per hour could push the fire five kilometers closer to the city on Wednesday.
On Thursday, it is expected to reach Highway 3 again, driven by northerly winds.
Details about the evacuation plan for the entire city are still scarce.
Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said the city continues to work on firebreaks to the west near Deh Cho Boulevard and sandboxes.
“We are demolishing, cutting down trees 100 meters wide,” he said.
Earlier this week, Yellowknife declared a local state of emergency that would allow the city to call in contractor services to perform this protective work.
“Those firewalls are really important,” he said.
When asked about a possible citywide evacuation, Alty reiterated that the current situation is only an evacuation alert for the Kam Lake, Grace Lake and Engle Business District areas.
She said the city would work with the territorial and federal governments in the event of a larger evacuation.
“If the road was available, residents could go that way and they would also be looking at the air,” he said.
In the event of an air evacuation, Alty said he would call the partners.
“When you think about the military, they have a lot of skills in this area,” he said. “They have the logistics and air support. Of course, there are commercial airlines as well. So that’s where all levels of government and private companies are working together on this evacuation.”
Alty offered few specific details other than saying residents would be notified of next steps if an evacuation order were issued.
He also said that residents should have a few bags packed with essential items, such as medicines and important documents.
“We have very skilled and experienced people who are working on this issue, and it is through their advice and experience that we are making plans,” he said.
The NWT government said it would have another press conference on the bushfire situation on Wednesday night at 7pm.
Evacuation order to be reinstated for Ingraham Trail areas
In the meantime, an evacuation order for North Prelude Lake, North Prosperous Lake and all of River Lake will be reinstated no later than Thursday morning. That had been downgraded to an alert on Tuesday, but NWT Fire said the wildfire threatening those areas grew “significantly” to the south.
It passed through a drainage area that was stunting its growth, despite tanker planes working on it. Winds coming from the north mean firefighters expect the fire to reach those areas of the lakes on Thursday.
“There is a threat to the Ingraham Trail. Without rain, the fire may reach the area on Friday,” NWT Fire wrote.
That wildfire is now four and a half kilometers from the northern edge of Prelude, about six kilometers northwest of Prosperous and nine kilometers northeast of River Lake. It is also 11 kilometers north of kilometer 84 of the Ingraham Trail.
According to the territory’s road condition map, Highway 3 is still open between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀.
NWT Fire said that even if the road is closed, residents in the evacuation order zone will be able to leave.
The territorial government has provided the following information for residents: