Many Yellowknife residents could return to their homes this week, following a three-week evacuation due to the devastating wildfires burning across the Northwest Territories.
As of Wednesday at 12 p.m. MDT, the city will officially reopen to the general public, according to Caroline Wawzonek, a Member of the Legislative Assembly and the Minister of Finance for the Northwest Territories.
“I think people are very pleased to know that there’s now a timeline by which the Yellowknife residents and surrounding communities can return,” said Wawzonek, in an interview with CTV News Channel Sunday. “I don’t know if I’d describe it as going to be a good week. I think there’s going to be some pretty stressful transitions for many people.”
Some essential workers and their families have already been permitted to return starting on Labour Day weekend, a strategic timeline that allows for emergency services, basic health-care services, grocery stores, pharmacies, and first responders to prepare for the wider reopening on Wednesday.
Wawzonek said the Northwest Territories has learned some key lessons from the latest crisis, and said the territory needs more mitigation efforts when it comes to disasters and funding to deal with it.
“There’s a host of problems that we already know about that we have raised and we have flagged,” she said. “This emergency really laid to bear what those kinds of impacts can be when you have an emergency to deal with.”
About 70 per cent of the territory’s residents fled their homes following the evacuation order issued on Aug. 16 for Yellowknife and the nearby First Nation communities of Ndilo and Dettah.
The government of the Northwest Territories said it is looking forward to the return of residents, but urges people to abide by the timeline, according to a statement from Shane Thompson, the territory’s minister of municipal and community affairs.
“This will help make re-entry safer and more organized,” Thompson said. “Please do not travel back toward the N.W.T.-Alberta border until Wednesday, Sept. 6. No supports are available in northern Alberta for residents considering moving north to wait for the order to be lifted.”