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Police issue warning to large group planning to re-enter N.W.T. despite evacuation orders

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Mounties in the Northwest Territories say a group of people may be planning to return to Yellowknife in violation of the current evacuation order.

"The information received is that a group of people are planning to re-enter the territory in as many as 50 vehicles from Alberta and that 'they will not stop for the checkpoints,'" Cpl. Matt Halstead of the N.W.T. RCMP wrote in a Wednesday news release. "The RCMP strongly discourage any such action."

Police say there have been extended highway closures because of wildfires in the territory, and there is poor visibility on the highway.

The release also notes there is a lack of emergency services to respond in the event of a crash on the highway, and anyone who is not approved for re-entry will be turned away.

"Anyone who engages in activity that risks the safety of Department of Infrastructure staff or RCMP officers at the checkpoints, may face prosecution.”

In addition to poor highway conditions, police say the evacuated communities only have limited resources that are intended to support firefighting efforts.

"We understand that people want to come home, but this type of activity has the potential to drain resources and delay the receipt of essential supplies for fire-fighting efforts," Halstead said. "Trying to return to any of these communities en masse, would be irresponsible and threatens to exacerbate already difficult conditions."

Yellowknife has a population of about 20,000 people.

A phased evacuation order of the city was ordered on Aug. 16.

Some essential workers, like hospital and grocery store employees, have been given permission to return to the city to start preparations to welcome residents home. 

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