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NWT Wildfires: Evacuees of Fort Smith can return home as of Sept. 18

Evacuees from Fort Smith can return home as of this morning.
Structure crew works to demobilize equipment on Sept. 15, 2023. Photo courtesy of Wood Buffalo National Park

Evacuees from Fort Smith can return home as of Monday morning.

An update was posted to the Town of Fort Smith webpage on Sept. 17.

“The evacuation order for the Town of Fort Smith will be lifted at 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 18, 2023!” reads the notice. “The Hay River barricade will remain in place until 6 a.m. Sept. 18. Only identified essential services will be able to enter Fort Smith until the barricade is removed.

“The Town of Fort Smith will remain on evacuation alert and a fire ban will remain in place. Please remember to follow local media for updates on wildfire conditions in the area. Keep an evacuation kit packed and ready at all times!”

As of Sept. 17, approximately 60 per cent of the Northern perimeter of the Wood Buffalo Complex, now estimated at 486,490 hectares in size, is 146 kilometres in length.

Fort Fitzgerald and Thebacha remain under evacuation order.

“Crews patrolled the fire perimeter in this area and extinguished hot spots,” said Wood Buffalo National Park fire information officer James Eastham. “Active firefighting operations are ongoing in the Connie’s Road and Foxholes Road area. Structure protection is in place along the Thebacha Road. Closures for all three roads are being implemented and we ask that you please give our crews the space they need to work safely.

“Crews worked along the perimeter closest to Fort Fitzgerald to extinguish hotspots. With improved flying conditions, helicopters were able to resume operations and assisted firefighters with suppression via bucketing and deployment to more remote areas of the fire line. Work will continue to secure the perimeter south and west of the community.

“The fire perimeter along Highway 5 is now considered controlled and crews are demobilizing equipment. As members of the community return, please be aware of crews working along the road – please slow down and give them space to work as you pass. A speed reduction to 50 km/h has been implemented along Highway 5 between Salt River and Fort Smith to help ensure firefighters’ safety. The RCMP are assisting with increased speed enforcement to ensure crew safety. Highway 5 is currently closed to the public from Hay River to Fort Smith due to safety concerns and limited visibility. Essential workers returning by vehicle will be allowed through the closure checkpoint provided conditions are safe for travel. Pine Lake Road from Bordertown to Peace Point remains closed due to fire behaviour and active fire operations in the area. It is anticipated the road will reopen in the coming days with speed reductions.”

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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