Canada: Rescuers Rush to Evacuate City Ahead of Wildfire
Climate and Weather Canada

Canada: Rescuers Rush to Evacuate City Ahead of Wildfire

canadian wildfire

Thousands of residents in Yellowknife prepare to evacuate as a massive wildfire closes in on the Canadian city. The capital of the Northwest Territories was given notice to evacuate by Friday at noon, in anticipation of the fire reaching it by the weekend. At late Wednesday, the blaze was within 17km (11 miles) of the city, and has already caused residents of Hay River to flee their homes.

One evacuee told CBC News that she and her family had to drive through burning embers to escape the town. Firefighters are ramping up their efforts to fight more than 200 blazes throughout the Northwest Territories, which declared a state of emergency on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Shane Thompson, the Environment Minister for the region, held a press conference to warn that the fires have taken a “real turn for the worse” and now present a direct threat to Yellowknife. He cautioned that the city was not in any immediate danger, however greatly emphasized that without adequate rainfall, the fire may reach the outskirts of the city by the weekend. Ultimately he cautioned against remaining in the city if it comes to fruition, saying “you put yourself and others at risk if you choose to stay.”

In the wake of an evacuation notice issued for Hay River over the weekend, some 500 people remained in the community of some 3,500 residents as of Tuesday. Telecommunication services, such as phone and internet were knocked out in the region and food supplies are becoming low as fires moved 30 kilometers in a few hours due to strong winds earlier this week causing one of only two highways out of town to be closed. Mayor Kandis Jameson implored residents to be extremely cautious when headed back into town from outside regions as the road is described as “treacherous”.

On Sunday, Canadian forces conducted the largest airlift evacuation in the Northwest Territories’ South Slave Region’s history as out-of-control wildfires forced families from their homes. Resident Lisa Mundy described the chaotic circumstance of her departure, saying that her car bumper had begun to melt, windscreen had cracked and the vehicle filled with smoke. “You couldn’t see anything — we were driving through embers,” she said. Her six-year-old son was so distressed that he repeatedly told her, “I don’t want to die, Mommy.” A scene of unfathomable alarm for a parent to witness, and a grim reminder of just how real the wildland crisis is for residents of the Northwest Territories.

Hundreds of evacuees have been forced south to the neighbouring province of Alberta due to raging wildfires that have already caused the destruction of 90% of the town of Enterprise. Home to 120 people, the mayor of Enterprise has indicated that the situation is dire with little hope of returning home any time soon. Experts and scientists have pointed to a warmer and drier spring than usual coupled with the effects of climate change as the main contributing factors to this historic fire season. Across Canada, there are nearly 1,100 active fires burning and meteorologists and fire fighters are warning that hot, dry weather conditions are expected to worsen the situation.

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