Local state of emergency declared for Yellowknife

Mayor Rebecca Alty said the emergency declaration allows the city to use contractors, who might have other contractual obligations, to help protect the city. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

The City of Yellowknife has declared a local state of emergency due to a wildfire burning between Behchokǫ and Yellowknife.

City council made the declaration at a special 6 p.m. council meeting Monday. There has not been an evacuation alert or order made for Yellowknife. The city is also not under an evacuation notice.

Mayor Rebecca Alty said the emergency declaration allows the city to use contractors, who might have other contractual obligations, to help protect the city.

“The situation is serious and we’ve been taking it very seriously,” said Alty, at Monday’s meeting.

“It’s about mobilizing all resources to reduce the risk of forest fires.”

Alty also urged Yellowknifers to “stay calm, do not panic.”

The emergency declaration is in place for seven days unless the city council cancels it sooner.

On Sunday, the wildfire burning between the city and Behchokǫ̀ had breached control lines set up around the Yellowknife. On Monday, the agency said those breaches had grown more “significant.”

At about 4 p.m. on Monday, N.W.T. Fire issued a further update, stating residents between kilometres 284 and 320 of Highway 3 should evacuate their properties.

City manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said on Monday that once an evacuation order was issued for the Boundary Creek at kilometre 306, that was considered the “trigger point” for the city to declare a local state of emergency. She said it’s about taking more preemptive actions to protect the city, and using contractors who may have been otherwise engaged.

“If there is a declaration of a state of local emergency, we are able to say to those contractors, ‘it’s time that we need your help now.’ And it does enable them to be able to say they’re going to press the pause button on work that they have contractual obligations to,” said Bassi-Kellett.

“At this point in time we are looking to mobilize every bit of heavy equipment that we can to be able to construct the firebreaks that are underway.”

Firebreaks and sprinkler systems

As of 5 p.m. Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀ was closed.

“Proceed to Yellowknife as soon as you can. Drive safely — visibility is extremely bad. Follow any directions and signage on the ground. Highway staff will let those leave who are still in the area,” read the update.

City officials said staff continue to set up firebreaks and sprinkler systems, including behind properties in the Kam Lake and Grace Lake neighbourhoods.

Contractors are also helping the city build 100-metre firebreaks around the Engle Business District, from Deh Cho Boulevard to the sand pits, and on Sewage Lagoon Road to Fiddler Lake.

Portions of Deh Cho Boulevard were closed Monday for FireSmarting work.

Bassi-Kellett urged Yellowknifers on Monday to help out by FireSmarting their own properties by clearing out any brush around their homes. She said the city’s solid waste facility is operating under extended hours, so people can bring any cuttings there for disposal.

She also suggested that residents start thinking about a “worst-case scenario.”

“None of us like to do that, but it’s always really good to wrap your head around what you might want to take, what medication you need, what ID, any important things that you may want,” she said.

The Behchokǫ̀/Yellowknife fire was mapped at 136,109 hectares on Sunday.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Wildfire breach of control lines east of Yellowknife now ‘significant’, CBC News

Norway: Smoke from Canadian wildfires forecast to reach Norway, The Associated Press

Russia: New NOAA report finds vast Siberian wildfires linked to Arctic warming, The Associated Press

United States: Wildfires in Anchorage? Climate change sparks disaster fears, The Associated Press

CBC News

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