HAY RIVER, N.W.T. — The K'atl'odeeche First Nation says it is to begin inspecting buildings today on the reserve, but it is not yet safe for residents to return as a wildfire continues to burn.
About 3,500 residents from the reserve and nearby town of Hay River in the southern Northwest Territories were forced to leave their homes on May 14.
An evacuation order has been reduced to an evacuation alert in Hay River, meaning the general public can return, but people should be prepared to leave again if conditions worsen.
There are currently no fires in Hay River and no damage has been reported in the town.
More than a dozen buildings have been damaged by fire on the K'atl'odeeche First Nation, including its band office, and it says there are flare-ups in the community.
The First Nation says before residents can return, it needs to restore power, water and sewer services; complete environmental assessments for issues such as fuel spillage, and assess the safety of homes.
The First Nation is encouraging residents to stay where they are as entry to the reserve will be restricted to essential workers, there is no evacuation centre in Hay River and no hotel accommodations are available in the town. An evacuation centre is open in Yellowknife.
The territory said Thursday that the previously out-of-control wildfire is now classified as being held, meaning it is not expected to grow under current conditions. It was last mapped at about 32 square kilometres.
Crews continue efforts to prevent the fire from spreading, including blacklining or extinguishing fuel in front of control lines.
"It is not a certainty that fires which are being held remain that way forever. Vigilance is needed going forward to maintain that status," N.W.T. Fire says in a Facebook post.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.
The Canadian Press