Residents of Enterprise, N.W.T., can return to the damaged but not destroyed hamlet after a wildfire took 90 per cent of the community.
Mayor looks to set up mobile homes in fire break, about 8 homes spared after wildfire
The Hamlet of Enterprise, N.W.T., lifted its evacuation order Friday meaning residents can now return — if they have something to return to.
The small community was evacuated nearly six weeks ago because of wildfire and the mayor has since said that more than 90 per cent of it has burned down.
Enterprise Mayor Michael St Amour says that eight homes in the town of about 80 people have been spared. Residents who have lost homes are scattered in hotels, staying with family and friends and in travel trailers.
St Amour says the damage is an opportunity to rebuild from a nearly blank slate.
“We have the opportunity to do something good,” he said. “Let’s work together and build a beautiful community. Not that it wasn’t before but we can fix it, we can make it better.”
St Amour said the community is looking to provide residents with mobile homes that he says the community will setup in a fire break just south of Enterprise.
He says that will allow community members to return and will keep them away from loose wires, nails and other contaminants and debris that St Amour says crews are still cleaning up.
A notice posted to the hamlet’s Facebook page warns that the remains of burned structures contain “potentially hazardous” and “toxic materials”. The post says that community members whose homes and business burned should not enter their properties until a damage assessment and environmental review have been completed.
St Amour said that “assessors” with the territorial government have been in the community to begin that work.
He said the hamlet is doing its best to welcome residents back but that it’s been a difficult process.
“It’s disheartening, nobody asked for this in Enterprise, and everybody wants to be home,” he said.
D’Arcy J Moses, a Dene First Nation fashion designer, ran his business out of Enterprise. Moses has been staying in his home town of Pedzéh Kı̨ First Nation in N.W.T., and says he’s not mentally prepared to see the damage in Enterprise and what’s left of his lost studio.
“To be honest, I’m still processing it, ” he said.
Moses lost 15 industrial sewing machines — about a quarter million dollars in equipment alone, not including fabric, patterns and decades of pan-northern beadwork and couture garments.
He says he is traveling from Wrigley, N.W.T., down to Edmonton and plans to stop in Enterprise on the way. He says it will be a kind of closure.
“That will be part of the process,” he said.
Moses said he plans to rebuild his business and hopes to access territorial supports but if he has to foot the initial bill and wait for reimbursement, he said that could be challenging.
“My business was hit pretty hard by COVID, and I was just starting to come back,” he said.
St Amour says he plans to continue lobbying for more support for the hamlet.
“We have families that have three, four, five children and they lost absolutely everything,” he said.
“There’s a five-year-old girl that doesn’t have anything to go to school with, and so on.”
Despite the unanswered questions about rebuilding, St Amour says he’s looking forward to being among his fellow community members.
“I miss my friends,” he said.
“We’re a close-knit community, and some people have been here for five years and some people have been here for 40 years. And the people that I’ve spoken to all want to come back.”
Written by Natalie Pressman with files from Kate Kyle