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Calgary, Yellowknife mayors call for federal and provincial wildfire re-entry support

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty are calling on federal and provincial governments to provide the support needed for residents’ transition back to the Northwest Territories.

Coming off a summer break, Calgary city councillors were briefed on the City of Calgary’s Northwest Territories wildfire response during an emergency meeting of the Emergency Management Committee Friday afternoon.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry provided the update to councillors in a closed session on Friday afternoon.

Through the latter portion of August and now into September, the City of Calgary has had a reception centre opened at the Westin Hotel Calgary Airport for evacuees from the NWT wildfires. As of Aug. 29, more than 3,500 people have been sheltered in the city and connected with supports.

The City of Calgary has also provided fire apparatus and personnel for some of the urban firefighting that would be needed. Personnel from the Canada Task Force 2, stationed in Calgary, were also deployed to the area to help.

After the meeting a joint statement was released by both mayors regarding the planned re-entry of residents to Yellowknife.

“For Yellowknife residents in Calgary now, we are appealing to the Government of the Northwest Territories to supply the social workers and supports that will facilitate a better transition at this critical time. For evacuees in Calgary, seeing a familiar supportive face will make a world of difference,” the statement read.

“At the same time, we are appealing to both the Alberta and Northwest Territories governments to call for additional resources to support trauma and crisis management efforts that municipalities cannot deliver on their own. By asking the Federal Government to coordinate resource provision through other provinces and agencies, we can immediately build a stronger support network in our cities.”

The return of residents to Yellowknife will be Sept. 6. Right now, according to that city’s plan, essential personnel and businesses are being returned to the city in preparation for the residents’ return.

City adds group lodging as response to growing evacuee numbers

The City of Calgary announced on Friday evening that they would be adding group lodging for NWT evacuees, as a result of the increasing number of residents from that territory continuing to seek shelter in the city.

The City said that the continued arrival of evacuees meant that they would “have to utilize other tools in our toolbox.”

The use of group lodging for evacuees was planned to begin on Sept. 2.

Group lodging, also known as adapted shelters, are public facilities or spaces not typically used for living accommodations, but are adapted for that purpose.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry said that some evacuated residents of the NWT are still requiring supports, and that the City of Calgary is doing their best to support those individuals.

“Our hearts go out to those affected by the wildfires. We stand by our neighbours in need,” she said.

To date, over 3,600 evacuees have registered in Calgary.