'There's no smoke': Residents expected to return to Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., after nearby wildfire

The weather cleared in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T. overnight Friday and people will be returning to their homes after a nearby wildfire forced them out Thursday, says one of the residents who stayed behind.

Earl Hope says he sees clear skies in Nahanni Butte, Environment Canada calls for rain later this evening

Earl Hope says the weather Saturday in Nahanni Butte is much better after the past two days, (CBC)

The weather in Nahanni Butte, N.W.T. cleared overnight Friday and people are expected to be returning to their homes after a nearby wildfire forced them out on Thursday.

"It's really good, there's no smoke. I don't know what happened," said Earl Hope, a Nahanni Butte resident who stayed behind to monitor the community and assist fire crews.

"It's a little cool and clear, there's no smoke, everybody should be coming back today," Hope said.

About 80 of the 100 people who live in Nahanni Butte left late Thursday night after an 8,000-hectare wildfire came within 10 kilometres of the community.

The N.W.T.'s Municipal and Community Affairs Department asked residents to cross the river about 15 kilometres from town as a safety precaution, but community members decided to go to Fort Liard, about 100-kilometres south.

Friday morning, Mike Drake, the Deh Cho regional superintendent with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs said it was safe to go back, but revised that message later in the day asking people to stay away overnight.

The message changed after the Environment and Natural Resources Department revised the wind forecast for Friday night, Drake said.

Saturday, Drake confirmed people are heading home and said it appears the situation is under control, though fire crews already in Nahanni Butte would remain for the weekend to keep an eye on the fire. 

"The weather's co-operating, the fire's calmed right down, not going to be any big winds like we had the other day which caused us a lot of problems," he said, "It should be a little smokey on occasion but it shouldn't be a problem for community members to go home." 

He also credited the people in Fort Liard for accommodating displaced Nahanni Butte residents between Thursday night and Saturday morning, calling the effort "spectacular." 

"People were kept in good hands in Fort Liard. The people of Fort Liard did a really good job taking care of everybody,' Drake said.  

Environment Canada forecasts a high of 17 C and a chance of rain in Nahanni Butte Saturday.