Wildfire prompts evacuation of the entire Canadian metropolis of Yellowknife. As a raging wildfire approaches Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, Canadian authorities are scrambling to evacuate nearly 20,000 residents by Friday.
With the fire threatening to reach the city in the coming days, firefighters have fought to extinguish flames that have spread to within approximately 16 kilometers of Yellowknife, according to officials.
Shane Thompson, the territory’s environment and climate change minister, stated, “The wildfire situation has deteriorated further, with the fire burning west of Yellowknife now posing a real threat to the city.”
“I want to make it clear that the city is not in imminent danger, and there is a safe window for residents to evacuate by road and air,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday evening. However, he implored residents to evacuate in stages by Friday at noon local time.
“Without rain, it is possible that [the fire] will reach the city’s outskirts by the weekend,” he said. If you decide to stay later, you place yourself and others at risk.
Yellowknife is situated on the north side of the expansive Great Slave Lake, approximately 350 miles south of the Arctic Circle, 600 miles north of Edmonton, and 900 miles north of the United States boundary.
Photos depicted a lengthy line of cars traveling south along Yellowknife’s only main highway, where the approaching fires could cut off access to nearby communities as early as Friday. The authorities have advised residents to travel to Alberta.
People who cannot leave by vehicle, are immunocompromised, or have conditions that increase their risk were asked to sign up for evacuation flights beginning on Thursday.
Wednesday night, residents queued up at gas stations to fill their tanks before leaving Yellowknife. “I’m nervous about my home here,” a man told the Canadian news outlet Global News from his vehicle. “The danger is genuine. I witnessed it myself. He stated, “The smoke is right there.”
Smoke emanating from the wildfires has also led to poor visibility and unhealthy air quality throughout the region, with some plumes drifting hundreds of miles downwind and deteriorating air quality as far south as Idaho and Montana along the northern Rockies. In these regions, wildfire smoke from Canada is mixing with pollution from Pacific Northwest flames.
Canadian media reported that gas and tow trucks would be available along highways and pilot vehicles to assist evacuees in leaving hazy areas.
Nearby residents, including Indigenous communities in the Northwest Territories, were also ordered to evacuate after officials characterized the situation as “unprecedented.”
Earlier this week, authorities in the Northwest Territories proclaimed a provincial state of emergency due to more than 200 fires. Recently, erratic winds have made it possible for flames to advance closer to Yellowknife than anticipated.
Yellowknife’s mayor, Rebecca Alty, stated, “We continue to do everything possible to slow the fire’s growth.”