Behchoko evacuees were on their way home Thursday after being forced to flee to Yellowknife for over a week due to a destructive wildfire.
While some were elated to be heading home, others wrestled with apprehension because they didn’t know what awaited them.
For Walter and Beatrice Naedzo it was even worse. The couple, who have four children, lost their home in the enormous blaze, which grew to well over 100,000 hectares.
There’s nothing left but the cement foundation.
“We’re happy for the people that are going home but not so much for ourselves because we got no home to go to. Our home, it was completely burned down to the ground,” Walter said. “There’s nothing really to look forward to going home because all we’re gonna see is the damage of our house.”
The family is looking for another place to live. Walter said their preference is to go back to Rae to be near relatives.
“But now we’ll take whatever that comes our way, maybe even a home (cooked) meal everywhere, if we have to,” said Beatrice.
She said their home was unique and built from scratch by six members family without any help from others. They gave the house a fresh paint of coat just two years ago.
“We gave all the paintbrushes to our kids and they’re all painting themselves,” she recalled.
Walter said the saddest thing isn’t the monetary costs associated with losing their home, but the loss of the family’s memories and keepsakes.
Nonetheless, Walter and Beatrice are determined to rebuild their home and move forward. With their children growing fast, the couple are imagining a bigger home for their family.
“Thank God I’m still young. You know, I want to do another house,” said Walter. “I’m hoping some time in the near future… all this is left behind us.”
Tracy Beaulieu, another of the evacuees who was also waiting for the bus back home on Thursday, admitted that she had mixed feelings.
“We just don’t know what we’re going to be going home to,” she said.
She has been trying to stave off worries since the evacuation order was given and praying that this sort of tragedy does not occur again.
Online mental health supports will be available even after everybody has gone home to Behchoko and the Tlicho Community Services Agency will provide healing on site, according to NWT Health and Social Services spokesperson Sean Whitcomb.
“We will be doing our absolute best to make sure that people are aware of them and we’re able to help where we’re needed,” he said.