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Fort Smith, N.W.T., residents put on evacuation notice; long-term care patients moving out | CBC News

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The Town of Fort Smith, N.W.T., issued a notice Saturday asking residents to be prepared for a possible evacuation due to wildfire. The notice is a first step that would be followed by an evacuation alert, and then an order, if necessary. 

A fire is burning 23 kilometres away and is not currently threatening the community of about 2,600. 

“This is only a notice,” the alert reads. “There is no immediate threat to the community and no evacuation order is in place. Citizens are directed to remain calm and ensure they are prepared for emergencies and possible evacuation.”

The alert came shortly after news that people in the community’s senior’s centre are being moved to Hay River out of an “abundance of caution.” 

Smith’s Landing First Nation issued its own emergency notice, noting that fire conditions “continue to be severe, with area closures and intense smoke inundating our community over the summer.” 

“Extreme conditions across the South Slave are unprecedented; displaying hot, dry, and windy conditions, perfect for large fires,” the notice reads. 

The nearest fire to Fort Smith is across the Slave River, about 23 kilometres from the community, 10 kilometres northwest of Little Bent Tree Lake and 22 kilometres northwest of Shaefer Lakes, according to N.W.T. Fire. It was last estimated at 44,856 hectares. 

Wind from the west is pushing smoke to the east, N.W.T. fire says, and they are working with Alberta’s forestry management team to add resources to the fire to free up N.W.T. resources to protect values at risk. 

About 46 kilometres to the north, several fires have merged into one near the Taltson hydro complex. The complex has been offline due to a planned overhaul. This fire does not pose a risk to Fort Smith, N.W.T. Fire says.

Meanwhile, several fires are burning in Wood Buffalo National Park. 

Bare trees, purple flowers.
A scene from Wood Buffalo National Park where fires have been burning since spring. (Parks Canada)

Jessica Davey-Quantick, a wildfire information officer for the N.W.T. government, is encouraging residents to stay calm and closely monitor local media. 

“This is like two steps behind,” she said. “It’s not an alert, just a notice. There are no active wildfires that are concerning to the Town of Fort Smith.”

Davey-Quantick said she knows it can be hard for residents to stand by when fires get too close for comfort. 

“If it makes you feel better, get your important papers together. Make sure you know where your pet carriers are, that sort of thing, but again, there are no alerts right now telling people to evacuate.”

No new in-patients in Smith

The N.W.T. Health and Social Services Authority announced no new in-patients would be accepted in Fort Smith, and those requiring admission would be sent to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife or elsewhere. 

People living in the Northern Lights Special Care home will be moved to Hay River. 

The Fort Smith Health Centre will remain open for outpatient and emergency services. 

The news release emphasizes that the moves are precautionary, and are being undertaken to minimize stress on resources. 

Some of that stress is related to looking after evacuees from Behchokǫ̀, “including placements in alternate long-term care spaces in the territory” as well as other services in Yellowknife.

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