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NWT Wildfires: Fort Smith publishes re-entry plan, no return date set yet

Fort Smith has released its re-entry plan, but no specific date has been announced yet.
Helicopter supporting firefighters’ suppression efforts via bucketing on Sept. 11, 2023. Photo courtesy Wood Buffalo National Park

Fort Smith has released its re-entry plan, but no specific date has been announced yet.

The municipality posted the plan to their webpage Sept. 11.

“Unless stated on an official Town of Fort Smith social media account or this evacuation update page, no dates of re-entry are approved at this time,” reads the posting. “Please do not return to Fort Smith unless directed to do so as an essential service worker. Re-entry of essential services will be announced on this page and on the official Town of Fort Smith and Fort Smith Protective Services Facebook pages.

“The evacuation order remains in place as of September 11, 2023. The safe re-entry trigger point requires fire control along the intolerable growth perimeter and this objective has not been met. The fire remains out of control along sections of the line. As soon as the trigger point is met structure protection will be removed and essential services will be reestablished. Until these things have occurred the general population is not able to return.”

Following the same model adopted by Hay River and used in Yellowknife, the re-entry will be completed in steps. The first requirement is for it to be safe enough for critical services such as RCMP, public service workers and service industry representatives that can support the firefighting effort. Once the threat to the community has passed, structural protections will be removed. Then, essential services will be asked back, followed by the general population and then finally vulnerable populations.

Now estimated at 485,159 hectares in size, the Wood Buffalo Complex is now contained at 22 kilometre and 93 kilometre points of the Northern perimeter. This means the fire is not expected to spread under the current volume of containment work.

“The Fort Smith area continues to be very dry which contributes to challenging firefighting conditions,” said Wood Buffalo National Park fire information officer James Eastham. “Today, unseasonably warm, dry and windy weather continues, creating conditions favourable for fire spread. Yesterday, crews observed vigorous fire behaviour along the fire line and similar levels of fire activity are expected again today.

“The high today is anticipated to be in the high 20 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity near 20 percent. Winds will be South with gusts of up to 25 km/h. Tomorrow, a small downtrend in the weather is forecast, bringing cooler temperatures, higher relative humidities and a chance of light showers. The drought code remains over 1,100 and will remain at extreme levels until significant precipitation is received. “

The Town of Fort Smith has published a Re-Entry Handbook and a Health and Safety Guide.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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