“It was amazing how much help we got”: an evacuee's account of the Northwest Territories wildfires

By Angela Hill, Canadian Red Cross
An helicopter flies across wildfire smoke in the Northwest Territories
Photo credit: Government of Northwest Territories

For more than 20 hours, people fleeing wildfire in Northwest Territories drove south to get to safety and plan their next steps.

Some of the people who were evacuated spoke of the pilot vehicle they had to follow to get through the smokiest areas, others about the smoldering ground. 

Michele Michetti, 29, remembers seeing flames, but it’s the people that stick out the most in her memories on the drive from Yellowknife. 
“First of all, it was amazing with how much help we got. We would not have been able to make it here without all of the help along the way,” she said sitting in the Edmonton Expo Centre, a place set up by the City of Edmonton with services for people evacuated due to wildfires.  
“Every single little town we stopped at, there was normal civilians that lived in that town and they had their cars set up at the gas stations, where everybody would be going to get the free gas. They had pre-made little meal bags with snacks and drinks and they were hand delivering it to each car.”  
Michele Michetti  smiling at the Camera
 Michele Michetti 

“We don’t know what would have happened if it wasn’t for all of those people and that was constant.” 
The Canadian Red Cross provided Michetti with accommodation for her stay in Edmonton. 
“They went above and beyond,” she said about the Red Cross team. She was particularly happy that the people she travelled with, family members and close friends, were able to stay close to each other. 
Michetti has been looking out for the people in her life since the evacuation alert came out mid-August.  

“I immediately started running around my house, waking up all of my family members, notifying them, telling them we’ve got to prepare,” she said. 
“I started taking my phone and calling everyone I knew in town that might not have much family, or might not drive or just wanting to notify them. ‘It’s happening we are being evacuated, [do] you have some kind of plan?” 
Red Cross volunteers from across Canada were working alongside the City of Edmonton to ensure evacuees were being welcomed and have their needs for food, shelter, clothing, and health support met. 
Canadian Red Cross volunteer Tom Soldan working at the Edmonton Expo Centre to support people evacuated due to fires in the Northwest Territories
Canadian Red Cross volunteer Tom Soldan 

Tom Soldan is from Edmonton, he has been a Red Cross volunteer for a year.  
“The resilience of people from Northwest Territories is totally inspiring,” he said.  
“The whole community is impacted … there are so many different layers. We are here to help people get their feet back on the ground, to support them to get back to maintaining normal, whatever that looks like.”  

Wildfires resources
A guide to wildfire recovery
Coping with crisis


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