Some Northwest Territories communities back online after 24-hour outage


Residents in parts of the Northwest Territories say their phone and internet services are returning after a day-long outage.

Wildfire damage severed fiber lines north of Fort Nelson and east of Fort Simpson, severely disrupting mobile, landline and Internet service in many communities in the Northwest, throughout the Yukon and in northern British Columbia.

“Our technicians have safely repaired the fiber line north of Fort Nelson. This means that many services are returning,” Northwestel said shortly before 10 p.m.

The company said Internet, landline and phone service should return in Inuvik, but would remain disrupted in the Mackenzie Valley and the communities of Fort Simpson, Fort Liard and Nahanni Butte.



Long distance calls may still experience problems. Internet problems in Yellowknife should be fixed, the company said.

“We are closely monitoring active wildfires near critical infrastructure and want to warn the public that conditions can change quickly and services could be affected,” Northwestel wrote.

“Thank you to Northwestel technicians and engineers who are working tirelessly to restore services across the North this weekend. And thank you to our customers and communities for your patience.”

The Inuvik Fire Department confirmed that its communications services had been restored. Other Inuvik residents similarly reported the end of the blackout. The city of Yellowknife said its 911 service had returned.



Elsewhere, Fort Liard remains under an evacuation notice. NWT Fire said Saturday that a wildfire southwest of the village did not cross the river, as previously thought, but instead reached an island.

Highway 1 between Sambaa Deh Falls and the Redknife River reopened shortly before midday, but could be closed again due to a nearby bushfire.

Highway 1 between Alberta and the Northwest Territories has reopened with the help of pilot vehicles through grass fire areas. Highway 7 was still closed at the British Columbia border.

Conditions were calmer (and cooler) Saturday after a Friday in which gusty winds contributed to the growth of multiple new fires, some of which caused road closures.

Communications outage

On Saturday afternoon, Northwestel said its technicians were still waiting for safe access to some areas to complete repairs.

“Our technicians are in one of the areas of damaged infrastructure and are actively working to splice and repair fiber. This work is critical to fully restoring service to Yukon and northern British Columbia. Our technicians will continue working as long as it is safe to do so,” Northwestel wrote at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.

“We continue to wait for safe access to a separate damaged location to address service issues in the Mackenzie Valley and Beaufort Delta areas of the NWT. At this time, there is no ETA for this restoration.

“We are closely monitoring active wildfires near critical infrastructure and want to warn the public that conditions can change quickly and services could be affected.”



Following reports of internet outages in Hay River and Fort Smith, Northwestel said it was “aware that internet customers in other parts of the Northwest Territories are experiencing intermittent interruptions to their service. “We are working to resolve that issue as soon as possible.”

Only after 9 p.m. did Inuvik residents begin to report the return of services, a day after the outage began.

In places where outages continue, the RCMP says if 911 is not working, go to your local detachment in person.

The GNWT says an alternate number to test 911 service is 867-765-8337.

The Northwest Territories health authority has published a guide on how to obtain health services during communications outages.

Fire at Fort Liard

Fort Liard has been under evacuation notice since Friday afternoon due to a brush fire south of the village.

An evacuation notice tells people to be prepared. It is one level below an evacuation alert.

NWT Fire’s Mike Westwick told CBC North’s Weekender that the fire near Fort Liard was 19 km southwest of the village on Saturday morning.



“It’s still a pretty serious situation that we’ll have to manage for some time, but there’s no immediate threat at this time,” Westwick said.

He said the wind would be much lighter on Saturday, allowing crews to assess the fire and work out options.

Monday’s conditions could bring further gusts of up to 60 km/h, Westwick warned, “which could push the fire to the north and east.”

“Those are some things we have in mind as we come up with strategies to get this fire under control and keep the Fort Liard community safe,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, NWT Fire said the wildfire had not crossed the Liard River as previously thought, but had instead reached an island in the river. Efforts were focused on preventing the fire from reaching the east coast.

Road updates

Highway 7 south into BC closed Friday due to wildfires in the Fort Nelson area. Fort Nelson and the Fort Nelson First Nation were evacuated on Friday night and residents were asked to head to Fort St John.

While Highway 1 was fully reopened at midday Saturday, NWT Fire says a fire along Highway 1, between Sambaa Deh Falls and the Redknife River, is 1,500 hectares in size “and growing rapidly.” . The highway could be closed again before long.

“There are cabins at risk in the area and our crews will focus on protecting those assets along with the road,” NWT Fire said.



Westwick told CBC the fire was a previously undetected residual fire. He said its rapid growth “is an indicator of the ongoing drought and difficult environment for fire management.”

In Yellowknife, promised rain materialized Friday afternoon to reduce the likelihood of major fires.

By Saturday, cooler conditions meant Yellowknife residents had the unusual experience of seeing light snow fall while reading about wildfire-related outages.

Catch up on Friday’s reports here:

Resources to use: