A week after an evacuation order was issued, some residents are trying to go back to Yellowknife, but officials continue to warn it’s not safe.
The community of 20,000 and the surrounding areas were told to evacuate last Friday before a wildfire about 1,741 kilometres in size reached the city. Firefighters have been successful in holding back the blaze that currently is burning out of control about 15 kilometres from Yellowknife.
Over the past few days there have been reports of people trying to return to the territorial capital despite the evacuation order in place. In response, the RCMP has set up checkpoints along highways to the city and are turning back people.
“We are getting consistent numbers throughout the day of people trying to maintain or trying to get back into Yellowknife,” Jeffery Nichols, senior legislative advisor to the Department of Infrastructure for the Northwest Territories, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The steady stream of traffic trying to go back into the city is causing a headache for crews trying to bring fuel, medicine and other supplies to those working the front lines.
“One is too many,” Nichols said. “If it’s traffic blocking essential personnel, then it is slowing down the process. The people that are getting through are the ones trying to save the city.”
This comes as officials announced earlier this week that plans are being put in place to have residents return. There is no set timeline on when evacuees can return and officials have urged those who still remain in evacuated areas to leave.
About 1,600 people remain in Yellowknife with other people across smaller communities as well.
A large number of evacuees left for communities in Alberta with few supplies for a long stay. The United Way of the N.W.T. is urging Canadians to donate money, clothing and personal items to the evacuees while they wait.
A COMMUNITY GETS TO RETURN
As of late Thursday evening the residents of Jean Marie River, about 360 kilometres northwest of Hay River, were allowed to return.
The small community with a population of 63 people was evacuated due to a nearby wildfire.
“Residents should be aware that the fire is not out, but the areas closest to the community have been suppressed and the north perimeter is secure,” the update from the N.W.T. Facebook page reads.
Crews are still active in the area bucketing the fire with helicopters and moving to the “mop up” stage in some areas.
The update says although members of the community can return the threat of the fire still exists.
While the community is no longer under an evacuation order, the community is still on evacuation alert. “This means that residents should continue to be prepared to leave. Have your vehicles fueled up and personal belongings ready,” the update reads.