Premier of Northwest Territories urges evacuated residents to remain away from wildfire-threatened communities

The Premier of the Northwest Territories is appealing to evacuated residents to stay away from their wildfire-threatened communities while RCMP investigate a convoy of up to 50 vehicles that is suspected of attempting to bypass checkpoints and enter Yellowknife illegally. The fire, which is burning about 15 kilometres from the capital city’s boundary, has been relatively stable for days, but it is still not safe for residents to return home. The territorial government has extended its state of emergency until September 11 due to the ongoing wildfires, which have displaced approximately 70% of the population, including about 20,000 from Yellowknife, most of whom are now in Alberta.

In British Columbia, officials in Central Okanagan are organizing escorted bus visits for individuals whose homes have been destroyed by wildfires in and around West Kelowna. These bus tours will allow people to have the first opportunity to see their properties before any further evacuation orders are lifted in the affected neighborhoods. The McDougall Creek wildfire, which covers 126 square kilometers, is still burning out of control in the hills above the area, and it is part of a cluster of fires that have destroyed or damaged nearly 190 properties.

NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane emphasized the risks and difficulties faced by first responders when residents defy evacuation orders and attempt to return home. She urged residents to stay out until it is safe to go home, emphasizing that even when it is safe, it will take several more days to ensure that essential services such as power, sewage, airports, hospitals, gas stations, and grocery stores are fully operational. The Premier also stated that attempting to return en masse would be irresponsible and exacerbate the already difficult conditions.

Territorial RCMP received credible information about a group of evacuees planning an “unsupported return” to Yellowknife. People who are not approved for re-entry will be turned away, and those who try to force their way through checkpoints could face criminal charges and charges under the Emergency Management Act. Meanwhile, a wildfire near Hay River, the second largest town in NWT, could strengthen due to hot and dry conditions returning on Friday. The federal Minister of Northern Affairs, Dan Vandal, pledged ongoing support from the government and commended the cooperation between all levels of government during this disaster.