Members of K’atl’odeeche First Nation living on the reserve are now being evacuated into Hay River. It comes after a state of emergency was declared on the reserve earlier in the day due to a wildfire near the Sandy Creek Lodge.

An evening update from NWT Fire on Sunday just before 9 p.m. stated that four crews of firefighters made some progress in keeping the fire from spreading toward the community.

Helicopter bucketing and tanker drops by air helped to reduce intensity, the update stated, but more work was needed to bring the fire under control. Control lines have been built around 30 per cent of the fire; control lines are areas where burnable material has been removed or enough water has been put down to stop embers along the perimeter to help stop the fire’s growth.

The fire was first reported by the reserve at around 12 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Residents of Old Village had been advised to keep watch, but the fire grew to the point where they were evacuated around an hour later. A video posted to the reserve’s Facebook page featured KFN Chief April Martel narrating and telling of how the fire had grown from three hectares at 11:23 a.m. to 15 hectares by the early afternoon.

Martel then posted another video notifying its members that the emergency siren was going to be activated with everyone requested to meet at the Aurora Ford Arena in Hay River. That’s been set up as an evacuation centre and Martel said the town was assisting in those efforts.

The Department of Environment and Climate Change (ECC) began fighting the fire with help from Evergreen Forestry, a company based in Hay River. Water bombers from Yellowknife were called in to help, as were helicopters in the area.

Residents were being asked to stay away from the area, but there was no risk at that time. That changed just before 2 p.m., when the reserve advised in a post to Facebook that residents gas up their vehicles at the Ehdah Cho Store as soon as possible. People were also advised to pack emergency bags and meet at the ECC building at the beginning of the reserve highway.

In a later video, Martel said a roadblock was going up at the ECC building as soon as everyone was off the reserve — no one was getting in once everyone was evacuated, she said, and Hay River RCMP was also scheduled to blast its sirens to let people know to leave.

NWT Fire sent out a tweet just before 3 p.m. stating that the blaze started at Portage Creek and suspected to have been human-caused. West winds were pushing the fire and smoke away from the reserve, however later in the day, it was expected that northern and easterly winds would direct the fire and smoke towards the community.

The Town of Hay River posted that there was no immediate danger to the town itself at around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, but updates would be provided later in the day.

The fire has now reached 65 hectares in size and fire crews were forced to pull back late Sunday due to unsafe conditions. Low-lying smoke was causing visibility issues, according to the update, and teams were having difficulty getting to the flames.

Showers are expected over the next couple of days and the hope is that it will bring limited relief to the area.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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