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NWT Wildfires: Town of Hay River releases re-entry plan

Hay River Town Council has released the community’s re-entry plan, sans dates.
A firefighter suppresses a hotspot with a hose near Hay River. The Town of Hay River has released its re-entry plan but has not committed to a date yet. Photo courtesy GNWT

Hay River Town Council has released the community’s re-entry plan, sans dates.

The plan was published to the Town of Hay River website at 2 p.m., Sept. 8.

“It is important to note that timelines for re-entry will not be added until next Monday or later pending the warm, dry weekend ahead,” reads the town’s announcement on social media. ” The plan was created through consultation with Environment and Climate Change Wildfire Incident Commander, the Community Emergency Management Committee, Municipal and Community Affairs, and essential community organizations prior to Council’s approval.”

Over 3,500 residents are current evacuated from the community.

Noting Hay River Kakisa Wildfire SS052 is expected to continue to burn well into the fall, the plan states the following conditions must be met before the Town will consider suspending the Evacuation Order.

  1. Completion of Tightlining – digging away burnable vegetation to the dirt right from the fire’s edge - surrounding the Priority Areas for Suppression;
  2. Containment Blacklining (extinguish hot or burning areas along edge of wildfire) substantially completed surrounding the Priority Areas for Suppression;
  3. Extinguishment of hot spots in key risk areas surrounding the Priority Areas for Suppression.

Once conditions have been met, a staged re-entry will be put into effect. This will follow the model established in Yellowknife, with essential services being brought back first and the general public to be allowed re-entry afterwards. It is estimated the general public will be allowed back four days after essential services return.

Areas that have been compromised by the fire may have restricted access for returning. People with special health needs will be returned after the resumption of community health services.

Firefighters are anticipated to remain in the community until the Hay River Kakisa Wildfire SS052 is considered under control. Structural protection systems and sprinklers will remain in place until the fire is considered under control.

Residents who return may still be under Evacuation Notice, meaning be ready to leave on short notice, while the wildfire continues to burn. Property owners are asked to firesmart their homes when they return. A full fire ban will be in effect.

Residents will be returned to the community in a similar fashion to how the repatriation of Yellowknifers is being handled.

NWT wildfire information officer Mike Westwick said firefighters were in for another tough weekend in the South Slave region.

“Winds today have been variable and are expected to come from the east by evening – five kilometres per hour gusting to 10 km/h,” he said in the daily Hay River Wildfire update issued at 2:41 p.m. Sept. 8. “Temperatures have reached nearly 22 degrees in Hay River and are expected to peak by early evening. Fire activity has begun to pick up in some areas both on the west and east of the Hay River as warming and drying continues.

“Tomorrow, warm, sunny day expected with winds from the southeast and temperatures reaching 21 degrees. This is meaningful especially for the fingers of fire within the Katlodeeche First Nation Reserve land as it may

push fire to the west in areas where line is not secure. There is no rain in the short or long-term forecasts.”

He cautioned the situation in Hay River was far from under control.

“Our team is preparing for what could be a highly active fire weekend – with near-record heat, and unfavourable winds,” he said. “It will be a test of our defenses and progress towards securing the fire’s edge closest to town. There is potential for fire growth over this period.

“Heavy machinery and crews will tightline (dig away mid and deep forest fuels right on the edge of the fire) running from the shores of Great Slave Lake through the entire Hay River Corridor to the Highway 1 Junction to the west of town. Heavy machinery and crews have made it through approximately 70-80% percent of this 35km section of fire edge.

“Type 1 (frontline, direct attack) crews will follow up behind heavy machinery in all areas to blackline (extinguish anything hot or burning within the edge of a wildfire) to build a strong, secure perimeter around populated areas and avoid further damage. Objective one is reaching 100 feet in from the edge of the fire.”

Read the Town of Hay River’s re-entry plan here.

Frequently Asked Questions can be read here.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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