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Evacuation order issued for Fort Smith; residents of North Prosperous and North Prelude Lakes told to prepare for evacuation

The town of Fort Smith is now under a full evacuation order.
A firefighter cuts down a tree inside Wood Buffalo National Park. Parks Canada has recommended the evacuation of the town of Fort Smith because of expected wildfire behaviour over the next 72 hours. Photo courtesy of Parks Canada

The town of Fort Smith is now under a full evacuation order.

The order was issued by the town’s protective services department just before 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon following a recommendation from Parks Canada due to forecasted wildfire behaviour over the next 72 hours. The expected fire activity could have an impact on access to Highway 5 by early Sunday morning.

Residents have been given an eight-hour time frame in which to leave the area, meaning everyone needs to be out by midnight. Those without vehicles have been told to meet at the Fort Smith Recreation Centre, where an evacuation centre has been set up, while those who have the means to leave are being told to head to Hay River and go to the town’s recreation centre there.

A release stated that Parks Canada and the GNWT Department of Infrastructure will try and keep Highway 5 open for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, NWT Fire indicated that residents of North Prosperous Lake, North Prelude Lake and all of River Lake should be ready to evacuate by no later than 8 a.m. Monday morning.

Mike Westwick, the wildfire information officer for the North Slave region, stated on Saturday afternoon that heavy winds between 30-km/h and 45-km/h are being forecast for Monday, meaning the Ingraham Trail fire would be pushed to the south and east.

It isn’t an evacuation order, but Westwick stated there is the potential for fire to reach those areas and that the announcement was being made to give those in remote access areas time to prepare.

He added that an evacuation order may be issued depending on weather conditions and success of firefighting activities on Saturday evening and Sunday.

Westwick stated that the fire wasn’t expected to reach neither the trail or any territorial park in the near-term — firefighters would be working to limit growth in those directions with airtankers and helicopters making drops on targets to slow growth.

If you decide to evacuate, Westwick provided the following checklist before you leave:

Clean needles/leaves from your roof and gutters

Rake all needles/leaves away from your cabin for a minimum of 1.5 metres

Cut all evergreen trees within 10 metres of your cabin and move the debris away

Prune all limbs on evergreen trees 10-30m from your cabin up to two metres from ground level

Move all combustible materials — firewood, lumber, deck furniture, ATV’s, gas can etc. — near or underneath your cabin a minimum of 10 metres from your buildings

Set up and test a pump and sprinklers on your cabin and keep gas full on pumps

If you have sprinklers, fill jerry cans with fuel and keep them at least 10 metres away from your home to assist firefighters, who may be able to run your sprinklers if they are in the area

Shut off and remove all propane tanks a minimum of 10 metres from buildings

Close all windows and doors

About the Author: James McCarthy

I'm the managing editor with NNSL Media and have been so since 2022.
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