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Evacuees from NWT wildfires expected to arrive in Calgary

Plans are in place to accommodate up to 5,000 fleeing from NWT wildfires

The City of Calgary will be lending its support to help thousands of people fleeing wildfires in the Northwest Territories.

The Calgary Emergency Management Agency has activated the Municipal Emergency Plan and said they’re prepared to accommodate as many as 5,000 evacuees from the Northwest Territories fires.

On August 15, 2023, the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs declared a state of emergency and directed residents of the City of Yellowknife, Ndılǫ, Dettah and Ingraham Trail to begin evacuating. 

Residents living along the Ingraham Trail, in Dettah, Kam Lake, Grace Lake and Engle Business District were directed to evacuate immediately whereas other residents were given until noon on Friday, August 18 to evacuate. 

The City of Calgary is expecting to receive five flights of evacuees to arrive on Aug. 17 at the Calgary International Airport. Once arrived, the displaced residents will be able to find a reception centre to receive further information and support. 

“Those in Yellowknife and the surrounding areas and the 1000s of people who are fleeing to escape the fires, we in Calgary are here to help. This is a time when communities step up to help others and we stand by those in need in this stressful and no doubt scary time,” said Iain Bushell, Director of Emergency Management and Community Safety with the City of Calgary.

“Between the 5,000 that we are willing to accept and other municipalities, we have the capacity to take as many evacuees as we need.”

For those who arrive by vehicle or other means of transportation, the City of Calgary has set up an additional reception centre at The Westin Calgary Airport which will open on August 17, starting at 2 p.m. 

“We want to ensure that when they arrive in Calgary, they have access to accommodations, amenities that they need, to the government services and mental health supports,” said Bushell. 

The evacuees will find spaces in Calgary hotels. If there are capacity issues, the city said that other facilities, such as Stampede Park, may be considered.

NWT wildfire evacuees will have access to various amenities

Evacuees will have access to accommodation, amenities, government services and mental health support. Both reception centres will include emotion and wellness response teams to provide additional support. The City is also working with its partners and animal rescues to accommodate displaced residents who have pets to provide shelter and supplies as needed. 

In addition to accommodating displaced residents, Calgary has also dispatched 10 members from the Canada Task Force 2 as an incident management team. The team is based out of Calgary and is dedicated to emergency response, incident management and urban search and rescue capabilities.

The team has been created in partnership with The City of Calgary, The Province of Alberta and the Government of Canada. The team is comprised of 165 disaster response specialists from around the province who are equipped to respond to a variety of situations. 

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has also worked closely with the Northwest Territories to support evacuees who may require continued care in addiction and mental health, home care public health, Indigenous wellness and pharmacy support. To date, AHS has placed 45 Northwest Territory residents in continued care spaces throughout Alberta. 

The City of Calgary encourages the evacuees of the Northwest Territories to register on the Government of the Northwest Territories website

“We know that Calgarians are generous and want to help our neighbours who are impacted by these wildfires,” said Bushell. 

The City also encourages Calgarians to continue checking the Northwest Territories website for recommended organizations for donations. It is not recommended to bring donations to the reception centres as they aren't equipped to house such requests. 

The City recognizes the emotional and mental impact wildfires can have on communities, as such, 211 is available for anyone who would like to connect and find support. 

“Many people are feeling overwhelmed by the images that we see from the Northwest Territories and we recognize the impact that it takes. Our hearts go out to everyone,” said Bushell.

Province lends its support to wildfire evacuees

On Thursday afternoon, the province said that it would be helping the roughly 20,000 residents fleeing the Northwest Territories wildfires.

"Albertans understand all too well how challenging and stressful it is to be evacuated from their homes due to wildfires, which is why we’re stepping up to help," said Premier Danielle Smith in a prepared media release.

"I want to reassure evacuees coming to Alberta that we are doing everything we can to make sure they have the supports they need."

The province will provide up-to-date information for evacuees online, and those looking for information by phone can call the Alberta Wildfire Resource Line at 310-4455.

For those travelling by vehicle to Alberta and unable to secure their own accommodations, they're being directed to reception centres in Valleyview, Fox Creek, Lac La Biche and Red Deer. Evacuees will need to register with the Northwest Territories to access support from their territorial government.

Alberta has also set up a refueling station at Steen River with water and washroom facilities. There are also tow trucks, pilot vehicles, mechanics and tire repair services available.

Those people under mandatory evacuation are also allowed to camp for free in Alberta parks. They must be registered first, and then contact the Alberta Parks Contact Centre at 1-877-537-2757 to be matched with a campsite. They can stay for up to 10 consecutive nights.