Displaced Kátł'odeeche residents want to return home, but fear what they'll find
Residents of Kátł'odeeche First Nation are hoping they won't be displaced for long, but many fear what they will be returning to.
Wildfire officials with the N.W.T. government said there is widespread damage in Kátł'odeeche, and on Monday they said about 15 buildings were believed to be damaged. The full extent of the destruction won't be known until the wildfire risk has passed.
"I just miss home," Debra Chambaud said Tuesday outside the Yellowknife Multiplex, where she will be staying in the meantime.
She said she's heard she might not have a home to return to.
"I hope my house still standing, but they said it's gone," she said.
Chambaud wants to go and see the damage for herself, but she isn't optimistic. If it is destroyed as she's heard, this would be the second home Chambaud has lost to a fire — she said her first home burned down in 2017 too, claiming the life of her 27-year-old son.
"I don't want to think about it, I just try to be happy, but it's hard," Chambaud said.
When the fire began approaching the community, Chambaud said she had little time to prepare. She only brought two changes of clothes with her and didn't even bring a jacket.
"I don't mind staying here, but it's not like home," she said.
'We don't know what we're gonna do'
Lorne Poitras, a Kátł'odeeche resident, is also staying at the Yellowknife Multiplex.
"Our house burned. We got nothing left, everything we had was in there. All my baby pictures, our kids' moss bags, all our family heirlooms are gone. Everything we had is all gone," he said.
As the fire approached, Poitras was using a bulldozer to try and build a fire guard.
When his family was informed of the evacuation, they had less than five minutes to leave. Poitras said there wasn't time to grab his wallet, so he's currently without ID, bank and credit cards.
"It's hard to get ID when you don't have ID. And so now we don't even know what we're gonna do. We don't know what we're gonna go back to or anything," he said.
Poitras said he's in Yellowknife with his partner and their two kids, who are 12 and 13-years-old.
"They're taking it pretty hard," he said of his two children. "They keep saying they want to go home and I tell them 'well we don't really have a home to go home to.'"
At this point, Poitras said he expects to be in Yellowknife for at least a week, but that depends on the wildfire.
"In the meantime, we're just trying to get the basics like, I don't know, get some gift cards or something for fuel, some food," he said.