The wildfires and evacuation orders for Yellowknife and Hay River hit close to home because of the people I met in the North in September 2022.
Yellowknife’s evacuation is the largest in Canadian history. The city of more than 20,000 people poured into the one highway south, Highway 3, which leads through the wildfire’s burn area and past the active fire to safety in Alberta or British Columbia.
Evacuees driving out found temporary shelter from High Level, Alberta to as far south as Calgary. Those without vehicles were flown to Calgary. In September 2022 I was in Yellowknife twice enroute to and from work in Hay River. Pastor Jim Gardiner toured me through his community and we had dinner at one of THE best restaurants for fish in Canada.
In September, I stayed in a hotel owned by Rick and Jane Groenewegen in Hay River. She is a former N.W.T. MLA, entrepreneur, and exudes kindness. Most people know her by her first name. Jane’s family owned a property in Enterprise, a few kms south of Hay River. She was at a friend’s place in Enterprise on August 13th when an RCMP officer knocked on the door.
“They said, ‘You got to go now’,”. While the officer was at the door, Jane said a message came over his radio that the fire had breached the highway between Hay River and Enterprise. Less than a day later the fire claimed her friend’s home and the Groenewegen’s rental property.
“The devastation at Enterprise and the corridor between Enterprise and Hay River is catastrophic. You can’t describe it any other way.”
The people I met in the North are supported by a resolute perspective on crisis. They are no strangers to fire, floods, and evacuations. Whatever happens they will find a way to get through it together and rebuild.
Kevin Wallington is a business owner and Board member at the Hay River Pentecostal Chapel. He and his family evacuated to a property the Groenewegens own in High Level. He talks about people saving other’s lives. “They were able to pull them from burning vehicles. They were able to pick them up on the highway when there was utter chaos. Those are formative experiences for everybody. I think there’s going to be friendships and relationships forged with people that have walked through difficult things.”
When the crisis is over there will be many stories of heroic rescues.
What About the Animals?
For those wondering/worried, there is a plan in motion to get the 22 horse, 6 goats, 2 mini donkeys, and dogs/cats out of North Country Stables in Yellowknife.
“The horse community is very close knit and incredibly supportive; there are currently 4 trucks pulling 4 horse trailers making their way up to Yellowknife from central Alberta to help with the evacuation (they have been granted permission to travel northbound on highway 3). They should be arriving shortly and will begin the loading process and ready themselves to turn around and drive back down.”
Cabin Radio has a running update on the N.W.T. fires and evacuations.
Have you lived in N.W.T? Do you know people in N.W.T. who have been evacuated? Post their stories in the comment section below.
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