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Gameti feeling the pinch of wildfire evacuations

The wildfire evacuations have caused plenty of headaches and stress for those who had to leave.
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The Rae Lakes General Store in Gameti has been hit hard by the evacuation of Yellowknife. It’s had to fly in goods from Edmonton at a cost of $50,000 per charter flight, according to the community’s senior administrative officer. Photo courtesy of Rae Lakes General Store

The wildfire evacuations have caused plenty of headaches and stress for those who had to leave.

But for the community of Gameti, which relies heavily on supplies from Yellowknife, it’s a situation where the community is suffering from a lack of just about everything. Sherbaz Muhammad, the community’s senior administrative officer, figures the Rae Lakes General Store has almost run out of the stock it had on hand.

“I’ll say 100 per cent of the supplies has dropped because Yellowknife is where everything was coming from,” he said. “The store has to arrange charters to fly in from Edmonton.”

While charter flights are a short-term solution, Muhammad said it’s an expensive one.

“A single flight will cost up to $50,000,” said Muhammad.

In addition, any items available are limited and the store has had to ration supplies.

To deal with the shortage, the community government has joined with community members to distribute produce from their community garden.

According to Muhammad, low-income residents and Elders are able to receive produce from the community garden from free. For others, there is a small fee: half the price of what it would cost at the general store.

“For example, a bag of potatoes that would cost $2 a pound at the store is being sold for $1 a pound at the community garden,” he said.

Though there are enough supplies of vegetables such as potatoes and carrots to last for two to three months, Muhammad said that these are not items that people want to eat every day and there is still a need for other food items such as meat, bread, and eggs.

Even cigarettes are being rationed at the local store.

“People are only allowed to purchase one pack per day,” he said.

Gameti has a population of just over 300, and Muhammad described the community is currently under “some sort of lockdown” due to the road closures and wildfire.

He compared the situation to what happened during Covid-19 when fly-in communities were unable to receive visitors. Flights to and from Yellowknife have been cancelled, leaving residents stuck in Gameti for an unknown amount of time.

Though the supply chain has been impacted, Muhammad said the good thing is that residents are still be able to get fuel thanks to enough supplies arriving back in March on the winter road.