Yellowknife truck driver Alex Debogorski says the lack of aid for truckers stranded in the city by Highway 3 fire closures is a missed opportunity for the city to promote itself through goodwill.
N.W.T. Highway 3 has been closed intermittently this summer due to forest fires and heavy smoke. The latest closure between Behchoko and Fort Providence began Monday.
Independent trucker Bruce Douglas says his truck sat idling on Highway 3 near Behchoko for five hours on Monday before the Department of Transportation told him to return to Yellowknife. He has been stuck in the city since then.
Douglas says he got off easy; others were waiting all day Monday for the road to open.
"In that whole time, there were not so much as a government vehicle to bring any kind water or sandwiches to people who were stranded on the side of the road," he said.
Douglas said he is sleeping in his truck, and he hasn't showered in three days.
Truckers have nowhere to shower
"How many hours do we sit here and sweat before we get some kind of relief? We don't have any bathroom facilities except Tim Hortons and Wal-Mart. And they would be awful upset if 40 truckers pulled up into the parking lot."
Debogorski says that a city that relies so heavily on trucking for supplies could make the best of the closures by treating the unexpected guests well.
"This is what I consider to be a missed opportunity for the City of Yellowknife and for [Industry, Tourism and Investment] to get free advertising when these guys go down the road," he said.
He says the city should have stepped up with water, vouchers for showers at the pool, and volunteers could "adopt a trucker" and bring them home for dinner "or maybe take them fishing tonight, they've got nothing to do."
Douglas says he's telling his friends to stay away from hauling to Yellowknife, at least for now.
People camped out in Fort Providence
Further south in Fort Providence, trucks line Highway 3 and pack the Big River gas station.
"It's a cat and mouse game because we race all the way up here from Edmonton because we were hearing the road was open and we get here and we're shut down." says Harvey Arquette, who is hauling diesel north.
Trucker Tom Lester says the road closures are costing him about $200 a day.
"Obviously, I'm not making any money. If the wheels aren't turning, I'm not making any money," says Lester.
About 40 people from Behchoko are camped out at a campground in the community and more are said to be on the way.
The Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation has been providing people with food.
"Yesterday we had like a feast," Cecile Desjardins, who has been cooking for the group. "They been giving us salad, trout and we got bannock and duck soup yesterday. It was really good, they're really good people."
Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge says for some it is a difficult situation and he's happy to lend a hand to friends and family from up the road.
"It's a bit of an emergency if you have family and you don't expect it, so we realize that and we help out as much as we can."