An “unexpected shift” in wind launched a voluntary evacuation of residences south of Hay River late on Monday night.
The Paradise Valley and Patterson Road areas are affected. No other areas of the community were under voluntary evacuation notices as of 4am on Tuesday, June 30.
In a statement, Hay River’s fire department said the wind was pushing the wildfire toward the Paradise Valley area of the Hay River corridor leading south from the town.
“At this point in time the fire has not crossed the river but has brought heavy smoke and ash into the area,” read the message.
“This has caused a voluntary evacuation of Paradise Valley and Patterson Road.”
The fire department says firefighters from the territorial Department of Environment and Natural Resources have conducted a back burn on the east side of the river in an attempt to halt the fire’s advance – but operations had ceased overnight due to flying restrictions.
Fire department personnel have set up a shift pattern on the scene monitoring the fire’s progress.
The Northern Farm Training Institute’s new site is within the threatened area.
“We have been pulling as much as we can out of the NFTI campus site and moving equipment all day,” said institute owner Jackie Milne in a Facebook post on Monday night.
“There is ash falling there this evening.”
Resident Orlanda Patterson wrote: “The smoke is extremely thick and the fire department has come by to give us all notice to leave.
“At one point we were able to see flames across the river. But it has gotten quieter since then, there is no red glow from the fire which mean it is still a little ways away and crews are working through the night to build a break.”
Which roads are open?
According to the Department of Transportation:
- Highway 1: Open
- Highway 3: Open
- Highway 5: Closed
- Highway 6: Open
The road to Enterprise remains open. Information correct as of 4am, Tuesday, June 30. Check before you travel.
[flexiblemap address=”Patterson Road, Hay River” title=”Patterson Road” zoom=”9″]
On Sunday, the fire department had issued a warning in which residents were asked to be prepared for an evacuation if “things go for the worse” with nearby fires in coming days.
Speaking to Moose FM on Monday, fire chief Ross Potter said that warning applied primarily to residents living in the corridor leading south from central Hay River.
“At this point, right now, I would suggest the problem area could be Paradise Valley,” Potter said at the time.
“The problem is with the wind. It’s hard to get a handle on which way the winds are going to be going. There is some weird stuff going on with the winds and weather around us.
“But at this point, we’re not too concerned about what’s happening close to town. We’re more concerned about the corridor regions.”
Related: Wildfire threatening Yellowknife phone, web and TV – Northwestel
On Monday afternoon, Richard Olsen – the territorial fire operations manager – said winds could drive wildfires nearer to Hay River in the next 48 hours.
“Two fires have grown together,” said Olsen. “The fire escaped the initial attack [from firefighters] on Saturday and has grown to in excess of 5,000 hectares in size. It’s about 10 km from the nearest town infrastructure.
“Weather-wise we are expecting that wind conditions will move the fire closer to the community. Because of this, we have made recommendations that emergency measures be put in place to prepare for the potential growth of the fire toward the community.”
Olsen said southerly winds – i.e. those blowing from south to north – are forecast for the next two days, which could push the fire closer to the town.
In the event of an evacuation, members of the fire department will go door-to-door notifying residents.
Olsen described the conditions firefighters working south of Hay River have faced in recent days.
“In a normal situation, crews can only withstand fires that have flames going up to about the height of their eyes,” he said.
“In these cases here, they were experiencing fires with flames that would get up into the trees, undertaking what we call crowning, and moving at a greater rate than resources could slow the fire down.
“Really, the resources pretty-much proved ineffective at that point. We have to pull off, reassess and look at other options.
“It’s a pretty common thing under extreme conditions.”
You can call (867) 874-3335 to hear the latest pre-recorded update from the fire department, while the town advises residents to sign up for email advisories.