Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: Thousands scramble to evacuate Canadian territory’s capital as more than 200 ‘unprecedented’ wildfires blanket the area


Thousands of residents have rushed to evacuate the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories as more than 200 fires burn, leaving many to face dangerous road conditions or queue for hours for urgently needed emergency flights.

The capital Yellowknife – home to about 20,000 people – and several other Northwest Territories communities have been ordered to evacuate as a large fire spreads toward the city and a major highway as it battles 236 active wildfires.

More than 1,000 fires are burning across Canada, including inferno in the Northwest Territories, as the country posts its worst fire season on record. Smoke from fires drifts into the United States, bringing harmful pollution and worsening air quality.

A little rain is possible, but strong northwest and west-northwest winds could push the fire into the suburbs of Yellowknife by the end of the week, a report said. Facebook registration From Government Fire Watch account.

At a news conference Friday, Canadian leaders pledged that no one would be left behind during the unprecedented evacuation from Yellowknife and that the safe evacuation of residents would continue through the weekend.

“We will continue to focus on helping the most vulnerable and stay as long as it takes,” Defense Minister Bill Blair said.

While most were encouraged to leave via the only road out of the community, 5,000 residents requested flights out of the city.

An unpredictable wind and raging fire about 10 miles from Yellowknife has been shrouded in smoke for weeks, as has Yellowknife.

However, federal officials said they believe the majority of the community can continue to be protected from fire damage and are working to create firebreaks by removing trees and applying fire retardants.

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In West Kelowna, officials confirmed several buildings were lost to the fire, including several homes. However, despite details of the harrowing rescue operations, there were no reports of casualties, officials said.

The Canadian Armed Forces support firefighting and aviation efforts in the Northwest Territories. The Royal Canadian Air Force has deployed several aircraft and helicopters to support regional emergency teams.

The first CAF aircraft, a CC-130 J Hercules, conducted an evacuation flight on Thursday and transported 79 passengers to Edmonton, CAF said. Additional flights are scheduled for Friday.

“We are all tired of the word unprecedented, but there is no other way to describe this situation in the Northwest Territories,” Premier Caroline Cochrane said in a statement on Wednesday night.

More than 1,000 people were evacuated from Yellowknife on emergency flights Thursday, and an additional 2,000 seats were available Friday, regional officials said in an online update. Many hoping to fly out Thursday stood for hours in a winding, slow-moving line, only to be told to try again on Friday, CNN partner CBC reports.

People line up in Yellowknife to check in for a flight leaving on August 17, 2023.

“We understand that this is very frustrating for those who have queued for hours and will have to queue again tomorrow,” said the regional update. People who are immunocompromised, have mobility issues, or have other high-risk conditions are moved up the ranks.

Officials are encouraging people to leave by car if possible and to carpool to help reduce traffic and help those without vehicles.

“Evacuation flights should be used as a last resort for those unwilling to evacuate by road,” regional officials said.

But some fleeing the area encountered roads engulfed in thick smoke and flames. Yellowknife resident Rui Pineda told CNN that he and his family struggled to navigate through heavy fog after the evacuation order was announced Wednesday.

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“We’re not really fully prepared,” Pineda said. “On the road, we were all afraid of what we saw in front of us, but we were constantly reminded that it was better to be out than to be stuck.”

Pineda described dangerous road conditions as he and others tried to leave the capital.

“On the road you saw the fire and we were struggling because of the smoke,” he said. “Visibility on the road was very poor. We couldn’t even see if there was anyone in front of us.

He and his family were still on the road Thursday morning and headed for shelter in Edmonton, 900 miles south.

“We’re very tired right now. We haven’t slept yet and we’re very worried about our house in Yellowknife, if we still have a house,” Pineda said.

People line up outside the school to be let out in Yellowknife.

Fires in Canada this year have burned six times more than the 10-year average, according to reports. Canadian Wildland Fire Information System.

Canada has had more fires this year than the 10-year average, a 128% difference. Still, the fires appear to be spreading more widely than ever, burning more than 13 million hectares so far this year — an area larger than Pennsylvania.

Current data as of August 9 shows that the 10-year average area burned to date is more than 2 million hectares.

British Columbia evacuates thousands

Fire officials are working hard in Canada’s southwestern province of British Columbia “aggressive and unpredictable” Fire conditions will remain in the area on Friday with strong winds and dry lightning expected, which will be compounded by existing drought conditions.

More than British Columbia 360 active fire – more than any other Canadian province, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. Forecast wind and lightning could cause the fire to move and grow quickly, officials said have warned.

“This weather event is going to be the most challenging 24 to 48 hours of summer from a fire perspective,” Cliff Chapman of the British Columbia Wildfire Service told a news conference Thursday. “We expect significant growth, and we expect our resources to be challenged.”

Chapman explained that lightning was the main cause of the new fire.

On Thursday, nearly 60 evacuation orders were in effect across the province The British Columbia Forest Fire Service said.

Among the evacuees were at least 4,800 residents of properties who were ordered to evacuate Wednesday and Thursday as the McDougall Creek Fire advanced in the province’s west Kelowna region, local emergency officials announced.

A state of emergency has been declared in Kelowna as crews battle the McDougall Creek Fire across Central Okanagan Lake. Press release Friday.

“Due to unpredictable fire behavior, it is critical that all residents evacuate for their own safety and the safety of first responders in the area,” a Central Okanagan Emergency Operations news release said.

Video taken by resident Todd Ramsey shows a lake surrounded by large mountains engulfed in flames.

“Absolutely devastated,” Ramsey said of the disaster in a Facebook post. “The fire jumped into the lake and was behind our house.”

Ramsey said he was eventually able to get out safely.

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