Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty has decried Great Slave Katrina Nokleby’s comments to NNSL Media and is demanding she apologize.
“I don’t feel a huge sense of urgency. I’ve seen people playing Frisbee. It doesn’t strike me that the town is about to burn down by any means,” Nokleby told NNSL on Aug. 25.
During a press conference later in the evening, Alty said there is a sense of urgency and called on Nokleby to apologize to the city’s firefighters and contractors.
“For me that comment is incredibly disrespectful to all the contractors that have been busting their ass 12 to 18 hours a day to protect your community,” said Alty. “For the past month, firefighters have been out there risking their lives to fight the fire and for the past two weeks parents have missed their kids’ birthdays so they can create the best fire breaks in Canada.
“Here at the city of Yellowknife, we deeply appreciate your work and we will be forever indebted. To be clear, the city is not looking for volunteers. We have all the professionals and experts that we need and we don’t need additional help.”
The mayor criticized Nokleby after the MLA appeared to downplay the seriousness of the wildfire situation in Yellowknife, while suggesting there was a lack of urgency in fighting the fire from first responders on the ground. Nokleby made the comments to NNSL after getting around a checkpoint to re-enter the city Wednesday, claiming she received essential worker status as a geological engineering advisor to incoming Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief Ernest Betsina in Ndilo. The Yellowknives Dene subsequently issued a news release disputing Nokleby’s claims.
Wildfire information officer Jessica Davey-Quantick said record high temperatures have made wildfires more dangerous. She said the wildfire is still 15 kilometres away from Yellowknife.
Emergency Management Organization (EMO) information officer Jennifer Young said that an essential worker is defined by a municipality.
Young confirmed that essential workers are determined by community governments, specifically wildfire suppression workers and their supports.
A phased re-entry for residents of Yellowknife is being planned for when the eventual lifting of the Yellowknife evacuation order.
“We are already establishing plans,” said Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty. “It will take some time before we can support a city of 20,000 again.
“We’re still in the middle of actively fighting fires. So very close to the edges of our community, which means that we do not have a firm timeline to get you back home yet. The reality is you can’t come back to a home and community without services. We’re working in partnership with the territorial government to make sure that when you come back, your community will be ready for you.”
Premier Caroline Cochrane asked people evacuated to not attempt to find loopholes in the system to get back to Yellowknife before the evacuation order is lifted.