Evacuation order to be lifted Saturday in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., says chief

The chief of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., says an evacuation order in his community will be lifted on Saturday.

In a comment below his initial Facebook post about the order, Chief Collin Pierrot said essential workers could start heading home on Friday and the territory's Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) was helping work on a re-entry plan for the rest of the evacuees the following day.

Pierrot said a flight schedule would be posted at the gym in Norman Wells — the town where many Fort Good Hope residents were told to go when the evacuation order was issued on June 16. Others went to a fishing camp on the Mackenzie River, or stayed behind to help with the firefighting effort.

"I think the plan is get the elders back and from there on, after the elders, we start with the general public," Pierrot said in an interview with CBC News. He said he's hopeful all the evacuees in Norman Wells, and roughly 20 who went to Délı̨nę instead, will all be brought back on Saturday.

The N.W.T. government said on its public safety updates page that flights were being arranged for those evacuees in Délı̨nę and 170 evacuees in Norman Wells. Anyone who registered as an evacuee will automatically be booked on a flight, the territory said, and those who didn't register should contact Janelle Pierrot at 867-445-5066 to get on the schedule.

The territory also said each person will only be allowed two bags on the plane, and reminded people that the community government would check those bags upon arrival because Fort Good Hope is under a prohibition order.

The N.W.T. government also issued a separate notice saying the Cassien Edgi Health and Social Services Centre in Fort Good Hope will resume its regular hours again starting Monday. The notice also says that residents should expect delays in other programming as things "settle back into normality."

The territory said an on-call nurse would be available over the weekend and can be reached at 867-496-0004. It's also telling community members who need non-urgent health advice over the weekend to call 811 to talk to registered nurses.

The N.W.T.'s forestry division said Friday the out-of-control fire, which at one point had reached the edge of Fort Good Hope, had reached 8,226 hectares in size on July 1. In it's afternoon update, it said winds were continuing to push the fire away from the community and a chance of showers could dampen fire behaviour.

Later in the day, the division said the fire line next to the community was "secure" and the risk to the community had gone down "drastically."

Satellite imagery using short-wave infrared measurements shows the extent of the burn area around Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., as of June 27.
Satellite imagery using short-wave infrared measurements shows the extent of the burn area around Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., as of June 27. (Sentinel-2/European Space Agency)

Rose McNeely, who has spent the evacuation at her fish camp 25 kilometres from Fort Good Hope, said "everybody is excited to come home." But the last three weeks haven't been so hard, she said.

"I brought a moose hide, I tanned a moose hide, and it's like — there's lots of things to do."

Pierrot said the decision to lift the order was made after discussions with MACA, emergency management organizations, and Fort Good Hope's council. He said strong winds over the last few days revealed the fire's hot spots, allowing crews to go in and extinguish them.

He said the community would continue to monitor the fire and do daily checks once everyone has returned home to make sure things remain safe.