Kam Lake resident Garth Wallbridge and his wife have been pondering which personal items they would like to take with them when they evacuate.
A former fire crew member who fought forest fires for two years in Manitoba 40 years ago, Wallbridge has been closely watching the wildfire activity around the territory, particularly in the North Slave.
“There is a good chance that the Behchoko fire could make it all the way to Yellowknife,” he predicted.
Before the evacuation alert was issued Tuesday, he and his wife ensured that they had their passports, personal medications and some cash in their wallets.
Wallbridge offered some advice to fellow residents.
“(I wanted) to let people know that people tend to have cans of gasoline or diesel fuel or paint thinners around their homes, which can be really dangerous if there are flying embers,” he advised. “Structural firefighters, like those in the Yellowknife Fire Department, get nervous when approaching a property with cans of gas or diesel laying around, especially if they are close to a building.”
Wallbridge encourages residents to get these sorts of items as far away from their homes and buildings as they can.
He also worries about the emergency plan that the city has, but on the other hand, he understand the challenges that the municipality is facing.
“It’s always easy at a time when people are feeling a lot of stress to criticize governments because they could have or should have done more,” he said. “Somebody made a comment about how (Municipal and Community Affairs) Minister Shane Thompson of the territorial government just yesterday said that a state of emergency was not required, and then today he declared a state of emergency — the implication seeming to be that how could he change his mind so quickly? And my thoughts on that at this time, most particularly are that today he has more information, the people he works with have done further risk assessments.”
Wallbridge also mentioned that there are currently about a dozen contractors working for the city on firebreaks. However, he would like to see even more equipment being used.
He recalls driving past the fire line on the south side of Hay River a few weeks ago, and seeing heavy equipment like large bulldozers being used to make a fireguard roughly 100 metres wide along the highway.
In comparison, what he has noticed in Yellowknife in the past several days pales by comparison, he said.
He cited an example from Fort McMurray, Alta., several years ago when a fire scientist commented that a two-kilometre-wide firebreak would have been needed to prevent the devastating fire that struck that city.
Former firefighter Garth Wallbridge wants to see better firebreaks in Yellowknife amid wildfires: