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NWT Wildfires: Bordertown re-entry plan in development

A re-entry plan for Bordertown is underway.
A firefighter gets help putting out a hot spot from some heavy equipment on Sept. 13, 2023. Photo courtesy Wood Buffalo National Park

A re-entry plan for Bordertown is underway.

An update was published to the Wood Buffalo National Park social media feed Sept. 14

“Based on the continued hard work of fire crews, the Incident Management Team was able to recommend that Smith’s Landing First Nation begin preparing for the return of Bordertown residents,” said Wood Buffalo National Park fire information officer James Eastham. “These preparations will begin with the removal of structure protection equipment in the community. For information on re-entry plans for residents in Bordertown, contact Smith’s Landing First Nation.

“While the risk to some communities continues to decrease because of firefighting efforts, threats in surrounding areas remain. Structure protection in the Thebacha, Fort Fitzgerald and Bell Rock areas will remain until the fire perimeter in these areas is controlled.”

Now estimated at 485,670 hectares in size, the Wood Buffalo Complex is being met by 320 personnel, including 43 pieces of heavy equipment, 15 helicopters and 119 firefighters and structure protection specialists. As of Sept. 13, about 21 kilometres of the Northern perimeter of the fire is considered controlled and 93 kilometres are considered contained.

“A controlled fire perimeter is the portion of fire perimeter that has received sufficient suppression action to ensure no further spread of fire,” said Eastham. “A contained fire perimeter is the portion of the fire perimeter that is not expected to spread given current resource commitments and forecasted weather and fire behavior conditions.”

Eastham noted that Smith’s Landing First Nation was preparing for the repatriation of Bordertown evacuees.

However, he cautioned that even after returning, hazards from the wildfire will be in the area for a long time.

“Areas without active operations that have previously burned remain unsafe,” said Eastham. “Extreme drought conditions in the Fort Smith area have led to the wildfire burning deeply into the ground. Ash pits two to three feet deep are common throughout the fire area. These ash pits are difficult to see and can cause severe burns and injuries.

“Trees with burnt root systems or trees that are partially burnt can fall easily and without warning, especially in windy conditions. They pose a significant risk of serious or fatal injury. Even unburned trees may be unstable due to the extreme drought in the area. “

Power in all of Bell Rock and almost all of Fort Smith has been restored as essential workers return to the community, according to an update on Northwest Territories Power Corporation’s social media feed at 12:24 p.m.

“Only two commercial buildings in town have yet to be re-energized,” says the update. “This will occur once NTPC is able to get access to those buildings to ensure everything comes back on safely.

“All occupied residences in Bell Rock have been re-energized. As customers return to the area, they will find an information package near their main entrance with information on how to contact NTPC to have their power restored.

“Power in Salt River remains off and will remain so until the GNWT Electrical Inspector is able to inspect each connection to ensure power can be restored safely.

Power also remains off in Thebacha due to fire proximity and to ensure fire crew safety. Structures will likely remain de-energized until the electrical inspector is able to tour the area and determine whether it is safe to restore power. For further information, please contact our Customer Care Line at 1-855-575-6872 (NTPC).”

Fort Smith remains under evacuation order.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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