In an unprecedented event in the region, the town of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories has been affected by a devastating forest fire, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people. Residents of the region, including an 82-year-old neighbor named Tony Whitford, have been displaced to the city of Calgary, Alberta, located about 1,750 kilometers to the south. This event marks the first time that an event of such magnitude has occurred in the region.
More than 19,000 people have been evacuated from Yellowknife in the past 48 hours, leaving the city virtually empty. Northwest Territories Environment Minister Shane Thompson said nearly 15,000 people have left the city by road and 3,800 have been evacuated by air. In response to this emergency, at least 300 firefighters have been mobilized to fight the flames, constituting one of the largest deployments of resources in this remote region of Canada’s Far North.
The fire is approximately 15 kilometers from Yellowknife, and there are concerns that winds could carry the flames to the city limits. In addition, British Columbia is also facing wildfires and has declared a state of emergency. The city of Kelowna and its surrounding areas have been affected by thick smoke, and the local campus of the University of British Columbia, which is home to more than 11,000 students, has been ordered to evacuate.
Against the backdrop of a record-breaking wildfire season in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern about the situation, calling it “frightening and uncertain times.” More than a thousand fires are raging across the country from east to west, with more than 230 in the Northwest Territories and more than 370 in British Columbia. The impacts of global warming are becoming apparent as Canada grapples with extreme weather events and an exceptionally devastating wildfire season.