20,000 residents ordered to evacuate Canadian city as wildfires close in

Yellowknife residents have been ordered to leave as 'unprecedented' fires are blown towards the city.

All 20,000 residents of the Canadian city of Yellowknife have been ordered to evacuate and leave as dangerous wildfires close in. The evacuation deadline is noon on Friday (local time).

What you need to know

  • The fire has burned 63,000 hectares and is moving slowly through the Northwest Territories.

  • Images show Highway 3, the only two-lane road out of town and it has been blanketed with smoke and choked with cars.

  • School buses have been used to help evacuate some residents to the airport where extra flights have been arranged. Departing flights are usually CAD$303 ($473), but they spiked to $4,665 for flights departing the city. After the airlines were criticised prices were capped.

  • The closest neighbouring province is Alberta, but it is 1100km south of Yellowknife.

  • More than 1000 wildfires are actively burning across Canada, in what has been the country’s worst fire season.

  • Upwards of 13.7 million hectares of land have been scorched, and across the country over 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate.

An arial shot of Highway 3, the only two-lane road out of Yellowknife. It's choked with cars.
There is only one two-lane road out of Yellowknife. Source: Reuters

🗣️ What they said

Roger Le Blanc, evacuee: "I honestly want to get out of here".

Caroline Cochrane, Northwest Territories Premier: “We’re all tired of the word unprecedented, yet there is no other way to describe this situation in the Northwest Territories.”

Greg Mullins, former NSW Fire Commissioner: “When you get your black summers, your Maui’s, your Canada's doesn't matter how many aircraft you have, how many fire trucks they're not enough,”

🗓️ What happens next?

The fires are around 16km away from Yellowknife but if there’s no rain it could reach the city by Saturday. Officials have been worried strong winds could push the fire towards the highway.

Cliff Chapman, British Colombia director of wildfire operations, has warned significant fire growth is anticipated and he expects resources to be challenged.

with Reuters

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