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Canada’s Northwest Territories Ordered To Evacuate As Wildfires Ravage The Region

Canada’s Northwest territories ordered to evacuate as wildfires ravage the region, leading to the evacuation of Yellowknife, the capital city. With over 230 fires scorching the region, around 20,000 residents are being urged to flee the rapidly advancing flames.

Cecilia Jones
Aug 18, 20231284 Shares116699 Views
Canada’s Northwest territories ordered to evacuate as wildfires ravage the region, leading to the evacuation of Yellowknife, the capital city. With over 230 fires scorching the region, around 20,000 residents are being urged to flee the rapidly advancing flames.
The impact of these blazes is being felt beyond Canada's borders, as smoke travels south, affecting air quality in the United States. The city of Yellowknife, which constitutes about half of the territory's entire population, is particularly at risk.
Positioned north of Alberta and east of Yukon, the remote territory faces a dire situation. Notably, a massive wildfire to the west of Yellowknife spans roughly 165,000 hectares (over 600 square miles) and is progressively encroaching upon the community and its main highway. Mike Gibbins, responsible for communication in Municipal Affairs Minister Shane Thompson's office, has provided updates on the perilous situation.
We’re all tired of the word unprecedented, yet there is no other way to describe this situation in the Northwest Territories.- Premier Caroline Cochrane
"Residents living along the Ingraham Trail, in Dettah, Kam Lake, Grace Lake and Engle Business District are currently at highest risk and should evacuate as soon as possible. Other residents have until noon on Friday, August 18, 2023 to evacuate," Northwest Territories officials said in a news releaseWednesday.
Officials have announced an evacuation order for the N'dilo community. Those who are unable to depart via vehicles have the option to register for air evacuations, according to the release.
Smoke moving towards the city of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Canada
Smoke moving towards the city of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Canada
"If you are able to evacuate by road, obey all warning signs, emergency management officials, traffic control devices and posted speed limits," Cochrane added. “Do not make any rash decisions that can put other people in danger.
For those leaving the Yellowknife vicinity by road, a potentially dangerous expedition awaits due to thick smoke and encroaching fires. Nadia Byrne, who described her evacuation as her most harrowing encounter, recounted patches of flames flanking the road as she drove through.
On Tuesday evening, Byrne, accompanied by four friends and their dogs, departed Yellowknife. They encountered difficulties in visibility and breathing while driving due to the challenging conditions.
"We hit a patch where we couldn’t see any of the lines on the road. That lasted 45 minutes," she said. "We had our N95s on and could barely breathe and our chest and lungs hurt."
She mentioned that the group safely reached their destination the following morning.
"We find ourselves in a crisis situation and our government is using every tool available to assist," Thompson said.
On Tuesday, Thompson declared a state of emergency for the entire territory. This decision permits officials to access and mobilize resources more effectively in order to safeguard residents and communities, he explained.
As the fires drew closer, the mayor of Yellowknife also enacted a local state of emergency. By Wednesday evening, officials reported that the flames were within a proximity of less than 10 miles from the town.
These recent evacuation mandates coincide with a broader evacuation order issued for much of the South Slave region, including the town of Hay River, during the past weekend. According to a post on social media by town officials, routes leading out of Hay River towards the Alberta border and west to Yellowknife were also shut down.
"The situation has changed quickly. Strong winds have blown the fire within 10 km (6 miles) of the community. It is anticipated the fire will reach Hay River this evening," Northwest Territories Fire said in a Facebook updateWednesday evening. "Crews that were in the path of the fire are pulling off for their own safety and are re-positioning to assist in other areas."
"Sprinklers and structure protections are in place and turned on, other operations will continue work when conditions allow," the agency added.

Canada far north's capital ordered to evacuate as wildfires advance • FRANCE 24 English

Initially, evacuees from the South Slave region were instructed to head to a reception center located in Grande Prairie. However, the Northwest Territories government has since redirected them to a newly established facility in St. Albert, Alberta.
Regarding the effects of the fires on communities within the Northwest Territories, Gibbins stated that this wildfire season has been unparalleled in the history of NWT. He added that around 65% of the NWT population has been affected by evacuation measures due to wildfires this season.

British Columbia Braces For Catastrophic Days Ahead

More than 360 active fires are currently ablaze in the neighboring province of British Columbia, with officials anticipating deteriorating fire conditions due to the impending combination of heat and lightning over the upcoming days.
"This weather event has the potential to be the most challenging 24 to 48 hours of the summer from a fire perspective," Cliff Chapman, of the British Columbia Fire Wildfire Service, said in a Thursday news conference. "We are expecting significant growth, and we are expecting our resources to be challenged."
Chapman cautioned that the presence of high-pressure systems has led to unprecedented heat records, coupled with forecasts of lightning - a primary catalyst for new fires. The dry winds resulting from the high-pressure air contribute to highly erratic fire behavior, as outlined by the BC Wildfire Service. These weather conditions worsen the already low moisture content in deceased vegetation, facilitating swift fire ignition and rapid propagation.
These climatic conditions also prompt live vegetation, encompassing lawns and trees, to take on a yellowish hue. This change is not indicative of impending autumn, but rather a response to the severe drought conditions these plants are undergoing. This situation is perilous as it provides more combustible material from live vegetation, elevating the potential for larger and more expansive fires, cautioned Neal McLaughlin from the BC Wildfire Service.
BC Wildfire Service is concerned about the upcoming ridge breakdown, and what that could mean in terms of fire behavior. We’d like to alert the public that there could be rapidly evolving fire behavior and fire behavior that could spread very quickly across the landscape.- Neal McLaughlin from the BC Wildfire Service

Evacuation order in place as Northwest Territories fires rage: “Driving through flames”

Air Quality Alert Issued In The US

Once again, the fires raging in Canada have resulted in detrimental air quality conditions in the US. The Minnesota Pollution Control agency has issued an air quality alert for Thursday and Friday.
"Heavy ground-level smoke from wildfires in the Northwest Territories of Canada is moving south across central Canada and towards Minnesota on Wednesday," the National Weather Service warned. "A strong cold front will bring this smoke across the entire state on Thursday."
Smoke is anticipated to reach the Minnesota-Canadian border by approximately midnight on Thursday, followed by a potential movement over the Twin Cities around noon. Southern Minnesota could also experience the smoke by 3 p.m. on Thursday, as indicated by the weather service.
The air quality in eastern Minnesota has the potential to reach the Purple or Very Unhealthy category for a considerable duration, as indicated by the weather service. Individuals in sensitive groups, including those with lung or heart conditions, the elderly, and children, are strongly advised to refrain from extended or strenuous activities. The general public is also encouraged to curtail outdoor activities.
"Smoke will linger across the eastern half of the state on Friday and fine particle levels will continue to be high for most of the day," the weather service said. "Winds will become southerly Friday afternoon and smoke will begin to retreat away from the state and disperse. Air quality should improve below alert levels by the end of the day on Friday."
In Canada, the Minister of National Defense, Bill Blair, took action on Tuesday by deploying the Canadian Armed Forces to offer firefighting personnel, airlift resources, and logistical assistance to the Northwest Territories.
"We stand with the people of the Northwest Territories as they experience their worst fire season on record, and I am confident that our military personnel will do their utmost to assist their fellow Canadians," Blair said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau conveyed that he was in contact with Cochrane.
To the people of the Northwest Territories: We’re here for you. We’ve mobilized Canadian Armed Forces members, and we’ll continue to provide whatever resources are needed. I spoke about that with Premier Caroline Cochrane today - and reaffirmed our commitment to assisting however we can.- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Trudeau convened with officials on Thursday for discussions concerning the ongoing wildfires. He firmly stated that any endeavors to unjustly raise prices on necessities such as airfare and essential goods would not be tolerated.
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