With more than 1,000 active fires blazing throughout the nation, including 230 in the Northwest Territories, Canada is experiencing its worst-ever wildfire season.
According to local media outlet Cabin Radio, Yellowknife’s mayor Rebecca Alty stated on Wednesday that authorities expect the wildfire’s pace will give residents time to leave on Wednesday and Thursday.
“The city is not in immediate danger, and there is a safe window for residents to leave by road or air,” Alty added.
Rylund Johnson, a member of the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly, said on social media that people had already started to evacuate the city voluntarily and were now under order to do so by noon on Friday.
“Flights will start Thursday afternoon. If you have ground transportation, check if your friends and family have a ride,” he said on the social media platform previously known as Twitter.
At a press conference, Shane Thompson, the environment minister for the Northwest Territories, stated that the “wildfire situation has taken another turn for the worst.”
He issued an order for the city’s almost 20,000 residents to leave by Friday noon by vehicle or air, stating that a fire blazing west of Yellowknife now posed a serious threat to the city.
Smaller villages in the thinly populated northwest territory have been forced to evacuate thousands of people, and a Sunday morning fire nearly completely destroyed the hamlet of Enterprise near the Alberta border.
Earlier on Wednesday, Caroline Cochrane, premier of the Northwest Territories, claimed that some Yellowknife residents were preparing to leave.
“I’ve never seen so many vehicles leaving town,” Cochrane said. “There’s all kinds of rumours out there, but be ready and evacuate if necessary. Be calm. Do not panic.”
The 163,000-hectare (402,781-acre) wildfire, according to NWT Fire, is presently 17 kilometres (about 10 miles) from Yellowknife and is anticipated to get to Highway 3, the only road that connects the city to the rest of Canada, on Thursday.
A few locations near the roadway have already received an evacuation order.
The city of Yellowknife is under danger. The city of Yellowknife and our crew are doing every effort to contain this fire and safeguard the neighbourhood, according to NWT Fire.
The Canadian military has been activated to assist in putting out the fires and airlifting some inhabitants to safety after the Northwest Territories issued a state of emergency late on Tuesday.
Cochrane spoke to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the wildfire situation on Wednesday afternoon. Trudeau reaffirmed the federal government’s ongoing commitment to help the territory, according to a readout of their conversation.
Western Canada is enduring a heat wave that saw 19 daily heat records broken on Tuesday and is fuelling hundreds of out-of-control wildfires.
So far this year, blazes have engulfed parts of nearly all 13 Canadian provinces and territories, forcing home evacuations, disrupting oil and gas production, and drawing in federal as well as international firefighting resources.