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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.

Eyes North

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.

Great Slave Lake and Hay River, N.W.T. September 2022

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.

Jane’s rental property.

“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.

After the fire.

“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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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers


  • Wayne Loe says:

    Yes, I lived in the village of Fort Simpson NWT, January 1982 to the summer of 1984. Those were both my early Pastor and aviator years serving with the Sub Arctic Mission (PAOC), and working for Simpson Air as a charter pilot.
    We first arrived in harsh winter weather, with our first son John who was six months old. James was born at the local nursing station two years later.
    Subsequently after moving south, I have flown many hours throughout the NWT spanning over 30 years.
    I know the landscape and over the years have met many remarkable people. My heart goes out to the many displaced people. Yet, heart warming stories will emerge, and they will rebuild. North of 60, both land and people, are Canadian treasures!

  • Faye Dombrowski says:

    We have relatives & friends in Yellowknife, Behchoko & Hay River. Behchoko was evacuated to Yellowknife in July & I believe they are back. Our friend in Yellowknife has posted how they are removing brush & watering down their places. They have their boats ready to go out on the lake if they can’t get out by the highway. Pretty scary times. They need our prayers.

  • Bob Jones says:

    I am amazed at how many people I know that have family and friends in NWT. Looks like firefighters and Canadian military are doing a great job in NWT.

  • Bob Jones says:

    Residents of NWT are resilient people. They find a way to get through days like these.

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