Update 10:30 a.m. Aug. 10 2023: The first of the evacuees being flown down from Old Crow as that community braces for high winds and even more smoke from nearby wildfires have arrived in Whitehorse.
According to the Yukon government’s emergency coordination centre 61 evacuees from Old Crow arrived in the territorial capital last night on a scheduled Air North flight and an Alkan Air charter. A further 66 people currently in Inuvik are expected today.
Emergency coordination centre information officer Diana Dryburgh said the Canada Games Centre is set up with sleeping facilities but all the evacuees who have arrived last night are staying at Normandy Living or at a Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) building.
KDFN communications manager Dylan MacNeil said sleeping space has been set up at the First Nation’s multipurpose building.
Along with accommodations KDFN is keeping its potlatch house open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily offering food, refreshments, counselling and other services there. A sacred fire will be kept burning at the potlatch house.
The potlatch house, located at 27 McIntyre Drive is also the collection point for donations to assist the evacuees. MacNeil said KDFN is looking for hygiene supplies such as: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, shaving equipment and toothbrushes. Items for babies including diapers, wipes and baby soap and shampoo are also being sought.
A shuttle bus travelling between the Canada Games Centre, the potlatch house and hotels in Whitehorse will run 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the duration of the evacuation.
With fires burning in the distance and high winds in the forecast officials have decided to evacuate the remote village of Old Crow in the northern Yukon.
The decision to evacuate the community, which is not road accessible and relies primarily on aircraft for access, was made the afternoon of Aug. 9. Air North flights out of Old Crow are expected to begin this afternoon, a social media post from the Vuntut Gwitchin Government (VGG) states, adding that Old Crow residents should visit the village’s community hall to register for an evacuation flight.
Diana Dryburgh, an information officer with the Yukon government’s emergency coordination centre, said the order to evacuate was issued by the Vuntut Gwitchin Government but the Yukon government is supporting the order and providing assistance. Both Dryburgh and the VGG notice stated that the community is not directly threatened by the fire but with high winds on the way starting tomorrow smoke conditions are expected to worsen and ash and embers may fall on Old Crow.
The evacuation plan is for Air North planes to take evacuees to Inuvik, where they will board larger aircraft bound for Whitehorse. Dryburgh said evacuees may have to stay in Inuvik overnight before they can fly to Whitehorse. The Yukon government is working with officials in the Northwest Territories to find them a place to stay.
Priority on evacuation flights is being given to elders, those with health conditions and families with children.
Old Crow had been the subject of heat and air quality warnings from Environment Canada since last week.
According to Yukon Wildland Fire information officer Haley Ritchie the nearest fire is roughly five kilometres southeast of Old Crow on the south bank of the Porcupine River. It was most recently measured at approximately 79 hectares in size but Ritchie noted that the measurements rely on satellite heat signatures and are not precise.
Ritchie said the stronger winds expected over the next 24 to 48 hours is expected to increase fire activity.
There are a total of 21 fires burning in the Old Crow region.
Yukon Protective Services is advising evacuees to shut off all household appliances except refrigerators and freezers and close all windows and doors before leaving. They should then gather family members and critical items like medications and important documents.
VGG representative Gyde Shepherd confirmed that evacuees are able to bring small pets that can fit under the airline seats with them. It’s not a sure thing whether larger dogs will be able to be sent out in crates. According to a post on its Facebook page VGG is collecting information from those who have to leave larger dogs behind and will work to ensure remaining pets receive food and water. It states they will work with Humane Society Yukon to secure a flight out of Old Crow for the dogs if it becomes necessary. Anticipating an influx of pets to Whitehorse Humane Society Yukon is seeking more fosters to help free up shelter space. Those interested in helping out can call 867-633-6019.
Evacuees should register with Yukon Emergency Support Services by phone at 867-332-4597 or in person at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse. They will be provided with food and lodging at the Canada Games Centre if necessary.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org