OTTAWA: Residents of one of the largest cities in Canada’s far north were ordered on Wednesday (Aug 17) to flee amid warnings that raging wildfires could reach it by the weekend.
The crisis in the town of Yellowknife is the newest chapter of a terrible summer for wildfires in Canada, as flames spread quickly across the country, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate and charring vast swathes of land.
More than 1,000 wildfires are burning across the vast country.
“Unfortunately, our wildfire situation has taken another turn for the worse with a fire burning west of Yellowknife now representing a real threat to the city,” Shane Thompson, the Northwest Territories’ environment minister, told a news conference.
He ordered the city’s nearly 20,000 residents to leave by noon Friday. There is only one highway open to the south. Commercial and military flights were also being arranged.
The wildfire as of late Wednesday was within 17km of Yellowknife, which is the regional capital.
“I want to stress that the city is not in immediate danger,” Thompson said.
But he added: “Without rain, it is possible (the fire) will reach the city outskirts by the weekend.”
“You put yourself and others at risk if you choose to stay later,” he said.
Yellowknife declared an emergency earlier this week, which was soon expanded across the vast northern territory as firefighters were forced to pull back in some areas.
Strong winds have stoked the flames, and several towns and Indigenous communities are already under evacuation orders.