Yellowknife residents flee and western Canada fires prompt new evacuations

  • More than 20 evacuation flights could be out in Yellowknife Friday
  • The fire is expected to reach the outskirts of Yellowknife on Saturday
  • New fires prompt evacuation orders in Kelowna, British Columbia

YELLOWKNIE, Northwest Territories/EDMONTON, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Residents of the remote northern Canadian town of Yellowknife scrambled to evacuate the town on Friday before flames stopped, while another wildfire raged in British Columbia’s western province. .

A state of emergency was declared early Friday in Kelowna, a city of about 150,000 people east of Vancouver. The next 24 to 48 hours will be very difficult, the Pacific Province said.

After a wildfire that had been burning since Tuesday jumped Okanagan Lake and spread to parts of Kelowna, some mountains surrounding the city were ablaze in the front light.

“Residents under an evacuation alert are advised to be prepared to evacuate their homes immediately,” the city said in a statement. More than 2,400 properties are being evacuated, officials said.

The fire’s spread and disruption to life and land underscores the intensity of this year’s worst Canadian wildfire season, with more than 1,000 active fires burning across the country.

The massive blaze threatening Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, about 885 miles (1,425 km) to the northeast, made little progress Thursday, but changing winds expected it to reach the suburbs by the weekend, the Territories’ Mike Westwick said. Fire Information Officer.

“The next two days are absolutely critical and the most challenging of the season,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) earlier Friday.

“We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at that breakthrough. We’re going to throw the plane at it, and when it’s safe, we’re going to throw people at it,” Westwick said.

The fire is about 15 km (9 mi) northwest of the city, but changing winds are expected to push it closer. Fires were burning on both sides of the only highway out of town, but it remained open.

“Leaving Yellowknife, you’re driving on fumes,” said Brent Saulnier, who moved to the city from neighboring Alberta. “It’s on fire on both sides of the road. … It’s a very surreal experience.”

Many more must leave the city of 20,000 with an evacuation deadline set for noon local time (1800 GMT).

“The noon deadline doesn’t mean the highway will be closed at noon,” Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Aldi told CBC. “We encourage everyone to get going as soon as possible. The highway will remain open until it is safe to do so.”

Flights will also continue after the deadline, Aldi said.

“Residents really need to get out now because everyone knows the fire is getting closer to the municipality” and could be by the end of the week, he said.

About 10 evacuation flights took 1,500 people out of Yellowknife on Thursday, and about 22 more are expected on Friday, officials said. The Canadian military evacuated 79 people on Thursday and more flights are planned for Friday.

About 65% of the total population of the North West Territories, 46,000, is ready for evacuation.

In a dispute with the federal government over a law requiring revenue sharing with local media, Transportation Minister Pablo Rodriguez on Friday urged Meta to allow Facebook parent company Meta to share news stories, responding to complaints that Facebook’s platform platform was blocking critical coverage of the fire.

Fire crews cut vegetation to break up the fire, set up sprinkler systems and intentionally set fires to remove fuel before approaching the larger fire, Westwick said.

dry conditions

Experts say climate change has exacerbated the wildfire problem. Officials say drought and high temperatures have been a factor in the number and intensity of fires this year. Much of Canada has experienced unusually dry conditions.

As the number of evacuees in Grande Prairie and St. Albert, on Edmonton’s northern outskirts, increased, both cities declared they had reached their full capacity and returned all arrivals to a new center in Leduc, south of Edmonton’s provincial capital.

Among them was the Goor family from Hay River.

The family was unsure where their son Liam, 13, was going to land when they got an alert on their phone while camping, returning from a cadet trip in the neighboring Yukon Territory.

As the family moves to Alberta, the most important thing to Paula Gore is her family.

“The only thing I had in mind was that I had the kids, the dogs and we had each other, to get out of there. You can really think about that at the time,” she said.

Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Timon Johnson; Reporting by David Lungren, Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Written by Denny Thomas, David Lungren and Steve Scherer; Editing by Sharon Singleton, Chisu Nomiyama, Jonathan Otis and Josie Gao

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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