Unfavorable weather persists in battling Northwest Territories wildfires, as forecasts predict worsening conditions for multiple communities.
Evacuation orders continue to be in place for 68% of the population of the N.W.T. who have fled their homes, mainly to communities in Alberta.
In a statement emailed to CTV Edmonton on Wednesday, Northwest Territories’ Emergency Management Organization said it will likely be several weeks before evacuated N.W.T. residents can return home. This is mostly due to challenging weather conditions limiting crews’ abilities to fight the fires.
“I know this is not what people want to hear, but right now, our priority is for people to be safe and not for them to return to affected communities,” the statement reads.
“For re-entry to occur, fires threatening evacuated communities must no longer be an imminent threat. While crews work around clock to fight fires and hot spots, weather will test these efforts in the coming days.”
FORT SMITH Update
The Wood Buffalo fire complex, a threat to Fort Smith and Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta communities, underwent significant growth on Tuesday. It breached a critical defensive line known as the dozer guard. This guard, is created by clearing a strip of land using heavy machinery. It’s a workspace and a barrier to halt the fire’s advance by removing potential fuel.
As of Wednesday, the fire was just four kilometers away from Fort Smith and had expanded somewhat toward Fort Fitzgerald. During a Wednesday evening news conference, N.W.T fire information officer Jessica Davey-Quantick provided this update.
The immediate forecast for the South Slave region indicates an “extreme fire danger” over the upcoming days, fueled by anticipated temperatures in the mid-20s Celsius and shifting winds from the north and northeast.
Davey-Quantick highlighted the Wood Buffalo fire complex fire fighting teams’ efforts to eliminate potential sources of fuel that could feed the fires. She mentioned their success in cutting off fuel sources the previous day and explained that ignition operations would proceed as safety allows.
Emphasizing the protective measures, Davey-Quantick stated. “We have extensively protected areas from Fort Smith to Thebacha and the Bell Rock subdivision, with plans to expand these safeguards in the upcoming days.”
An additional fire rages roughly 23 kilometers north of Fort Smith. Ignited by lightning, the blaze covered about 970 square kilometers. It was initially overseen by an Alberta Incident Management Team.
According to an online update from N.W.T. fire officials, the fire’s intensity escalated owing to “extreme wind conditions.”
The firefighting teams persist in addressing this fire as circumstances permit.
As of Wednesday evening, the closure of Highway 5, also referred to as the Fort Smith Highway, persists due to the ongoing fire activity.
ROYAL STATEMENT FROM KING CHARLES
Responding to the states of emergency declared in N.W.T. and B.C. due to ongoing wildfires, King Charles issued a statement Wednesday. Reflecting on his 2022 visit to Yellowknife, the newly crowned king thanked first responders and officials for their unwavering efforts.
“Recalling our fond visit to Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories last year, we empathize with the communities grappling with this dire situation,” he conveys.
Highlighting the unity amidst challenges, the king noted. “Canada’s allure extends beyond its landscapes; its true magnificence resides in the resilience and solidarity of its people during times of hardship.”
Addressing the ongoing wildfires across Canada and particularly in N.W.T. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shared brief comments during a Wednesday press conference.
“Canadian Armed Forces remain deployed to provide ground support, and Service Canada aids evacuations. We’re helping,” he affirmed.
Evacuation orders persist for 68% of N.W.T.’s population, seeking refuge mainly in Alberta communities.
Trudeau extended gratitude. “Heartfelt thanks to all Canadians who’ve stepped up, opening their homes and communities to those in need during these challenging times. It’s in these moments that Canadians truly exemplify their compassionate nature and unity.”