N.W.T. says no financial aid for evacuees who organized own travel, accommodations

Officials in the Northwest Territories are expected to hold a virtual news conference at 7 p.m. MT (9 p.m. ET) to update residents on the wildfire situation and resulting evacuations. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

By Luke Carroll · CBC News

N.W.T. fire information officer says situation could stretch on for weeks

The N.W.T. government will not be offering financial support to evacuees who found their own accommodations, nor does it intend to help cover travel costs for people who left in their own vehicles, a spokesman for the territorial government says.

People who relied on the N.W.T.’s evacuation flights will have assistance returning when the order is lifted, said Jennifer Young, director of corporate affairs for the territory’s municipal and community affairs department, said during a Monday evening wildfire update.

“If you self-evacuated on your own means, the expectation will be that you re-enter on your own means,” said Young.

Instead, residents should be looking into their insurance policies to help cover expenses, she said.

Approximately 68 per cent of residents in N.W.T.  have evacuated due to wildfires, Young added during the Monday update.

Several communities evacuated 

A wildfire burning about 15 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife caused the evacuation of about 20,000 from the N.W.T. capital city beginning late last week.

Nearby Dene communities of Dettah and Ndilǫ, as well as residences along the Ingraham Trail, were also evacuated. Other N.W.T. communities under evacuation orders are Jean Marie River, Kakiska, Kátł’odeeche First Nation, Hay River, Enterprise and Fort Smith.

Lighter winds, rain and firefighting tactics over the weekend helped prevent the fire’s advance toward Yellowknife. It was forecast to travel up to four kilometres closer to the city; instead, it only moved between 100 and 200 metres, according to fire officials.

Mike Westwick, N.W.T. fire information officer, said crews are looking at weeks of work before most people can go home, but that is dependent on a lot of factors, especially weather.

Rain buys some time 

The rain that fell in the Yellowknife area over the past 72 hours helped reduce fire activity and gave firefighters a chance to better assess the situation.

But he said the rain is not enough to end the threat to the city, he said there would need to be about 60 millimetres in a 10-day span of rain.

In context, there has been only around 10 millimetres in the past few days and the forecast is looking dry in the coming days.

Westwick said the biggest concern for fire crews is the wildfire burning about four kilometres from Fort Smith, N.W.T.

He said they expect challenging winds which could push the fire toward the community again.

Westwick said crews have been working on a control line and structural protection.

Worries over coming weather

The Hay River fire remains eight kilometres from the community, 10 kilometres from K’atl’odeeche First Nation and 14 kilometres from Kakisa.

“We’re concerned by the incoming weather over the next few days,” Westwick said of the fire near those communities.

But he said he’s happy with the protections that have been put into place in recent days, including dozer lines and sprinklers.

“They’re going to continue to stand tall and continue to do that work and stay safe,” he said of the crews on the ground.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: N.W.T. premier says no commitment from Trudeau on financial assistance for evacuees, 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

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