The tiny settlement of Fitzgerald was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after aforest fire flared up near the community.
The 300 delegates to the Akaitcho annual assembly were also forced to leavethe community, located about 23 kilometres south of the N.W.T.- Alberta border.
Lightning started the fire Tuesday night. While fire crews got it undercontrol a few hours later, it flared up in the heat Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re evacuating Fort Fitzgerald now, and we’re going to move everybodyto Fort Smith, because they may be in danger, because the fire is so near andplus the wind is pushing it this way. So we have to leave,” MiglourePaulette, the acting chief of Fitzgerald, said.
People left quickly but calmly, abandoning coats and handbags, computers,printers and audio equipment. Some elders had started moving to Fort Smithbefore the evacuation announcement.
The RCMP escorted the convoy of over 50 vehicles to safety, and say theevacuation was a precautionary measure.
“There’s only one road into the area and when I drove down there was hotash blowing across the road, with the possibility of the road becoming closeddue to smoke and whatever. And because of the number of elders that were outthere, for medical reasons it was decided that everybody leave Fort Fitz,”RCMP Sgt. Craig Seafoot said.
In the midst of the exodus, water bombers and helicopters flying could beseen and heard.
The highway to Fitzgerald, closed for several hours Tuesday night, is nowclosed indefinitely.