N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said she will be "soliciting" more support from the federal government in a meeting with the Prime Minister on Saturday.
Cochrane has publicly decried the lack of infrastructure investment in the North. She doubled-down on her comments at a news conference on Friday evening, specifically calling out the federal government's lack of commitment.
"The time for talk is done," she said. "We need action now."
Cochrane said the N.W.T. can't face another year with so little infrastructure.
A media advisory said Cochrane was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at 11:20 a.m. in Edmonton.
Fire threatening Hay River
Work done to protect the town of Hay River, N.W.T. from a nearby wildfire will be put to the test, says the territorial municipal and community affairs minister.
"This is a very serious situation that we will be watching closely," said Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Shane Thompson at a news conference on Friday.
Fire officials said earlier in the day that the weather conditions created a "blow-up event" that led to a kilometres-wide flame front. The situation is too dangerous for firefighters to be near and it won't be known whether the fire reaches the town until Saturday morning.
Fire continues to threaten the community of Hay River, N.W.T. (Submitted)
At around 3 p.m. that day, the fire was still around 10 kilometres from the town, officials said, however, it was too dangerous for anyone to monitor its movement.
Jessica Davey-Quantick, an N.W.T. Fire information officer, said it's a difficult situation in Hay River and that everyone other than firefighters remain.
She reiterated that evacuees shouldn't return to any communities under an evacuation order as the situation can change quickly, as is happening in Hay River and Fort Smith.
Thompson echoed those comments, adding that the department of infrastructure has constructed road barriers outside all communities under an evacuation order.
'Praying for a safe return'
Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty said she knows that people want to return as quickly as possible but said it will be a phased approach to return when the order is lifted.
"This means things like making sure you have safe drinking water," she said. "That there are enough healthcare workers at the hospital."
But she said they aren't ready to release the plan yet as the focus needs to be on fighting the fire.
Yellowknives Dene First Nation Dettah Chief Edward Sangris also spoke at the news conference on Friday.
"We are taking steps to ensure critical financial resources are available to all Yellowknives Dene members," he said.
Dettah Yellowknives Dene First Nation Chief Edward Sangris. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)
Sangris also thanked the essential workers protecting the community.
"The Yellowknives Dene have not been idle through the state of emergency," he said, referencing a firebrake around Dettah and sprinkler systems in Ndilǫ and along the Ingraham Trail.
"I'm praying for our safe return as well," he said.
Financial support announced
The N.W.T. government says it will be providing financial assistance to evacuees who drove themselves out of the territory as a result of an evacuation order.
In a news release sent Friday evening, the territorial government said it would be providing $750 per vehicle to those who drove south or $400 per vehicle for those who drove to a different part of the N.W.T.
Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek said the government recognizes that the funding will provide some relief but won't fix every individual experience.
Details on how to register for the funding will come later, when re-entry planning progresses, according to the release.
Evacuees who left by road but need to return by air will be eligible to register for organized re-entry flights paid by the territorial government.
People walk to a Royal Canadian Air Force transport plane while being evacuated from an approaching wildfire in Hay River, Northwest Territories. (Canadian Forces/Reuters)
The N.W.T. government also announced additional support for small businesses, offering $5,000 to offset operational costs incurred by wildfire-affected businesses through the Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) policy.
She said this funding is similar to what was available during COVID.
Business owners will need to provide proof of losses from May 2023 onward, with "receipts or equivalent proof," states the release.
Wawzonek said residents can't currently apply for the funding as the territorial government is still working on building the online application.
She said people are working on it over the weekend and hopes to have it available by Monday, but that it could be later in the week or early the following week.
Friday's news conference comes hours afterthe wildfire threatening Hay River, N.W.T., grew substantially worse. Fire officials described a "blow-up event" at the fire's north end that overwhelmed fire crews and sent a kilometres-wide flame front moving parallel to the highway toward the community.
N.W.T. Fire said wildfire crews and aircraft were pulled back to safety. Everyone, except firefighters, have been told to leave immediately for the airport so they can be brought to safety, too.
The territorial government has provided the following links for residents: