Mass Exodus as Wildfire Approaches Canadian Northwest Territories’ Capital

by Lucas Garcia
Wildfire Evacuation

Efforts were underway by firefighters to keep the sole escape route from the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories accessible, as a wildfire neared the city of 20,000 residents. The urgency escalated as inhabitants rushed to evacuate before a noon Friday deadline.

Throughout the night, firefighting aircraft carried out sorties to maintain the highway out of Yellowknife operational. Authorities were leading a lengthy procession of vehicles through the fire-affected areas. Simultaneously, a network comprising firebreaks, sprinklers, and water cannons was being established to shield the city from the encroaching flames, which had come within a proximity of 15 kilometers (approximately 9 miles).

However, the combination of northwest winds and scarce rainfall posed challenges to the firefighting efforts. These adverse conditions could propel the fire to the city’s outskirts by the weekend, cautioned emergency officials. Although there was a possibility of limited rain on Friday, it was unlikely to be sufficient to quell the flames.

Shane Thompson, a government minister for the Territories, emphasized the significance of the impending days in a news conference, stating, “We are entering a crucial period.”

By Friday, the city was almost deserted, with just a grocery store, a pharmacy, and a bar remaining open, according to the Canadian Press. Kieron Testart, who was checking on residents door-to-door, described the scene as resembling “having a drink at the edge of the world.”

Amidst the wildfire onslaught, thousands of individuals fled the area, seeking safety by driving hundreds of kilometers or awaiting emergency flights. The relentless wildfires, constituting the most severe fire season ever recorded in Canada, showed no signs of abating.

On Thursday, ten planes departed Yellowknife, transporting 1,500 passengers. Jennifer Young, director of corporate affairs for the Northwest Territories’ Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, disclosed that the agency was anticipating 22 more flights on Friday, accommodating an additional 1,800 passengers.

Although the fire’s progression on Thursday was less extensive than anticipated, Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty emphasized the looming threat. She underscored the increasing urgency of evacuation due to the imminent influx of heavy smoke.

Alice Liske, who departed Yellowknife due to poor air quality, expressed concerns about the feasibility of evacuating such a large population in a short span. She pondered, “Not only that, but when we go back, what will be there for us?”

This year, Canada had been plagued by an unprecedented number of wildfires, leading to smoky conditions in certain areas of the United States. The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported over 5,700 fires consuming more than 137,000 square kilometers (approximately 53,000 square miles) across the country.

As of Friday morning, over 1,000 wildfires were active nationwide, with more than half of them remaining uncontained. In regions south of Yellowknife, approximately 2,400 properties in West Kelowna, British Columbia, were subject to evacuation orders, while another 4,800 properties were on high alert due to a nearby wildfire threat.

The evacuation of Yellowknife constituted the most extensive displacement this year, as noted by Ken McMullen, president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. He stressed the importance of swift evacuation to ensure residents’ safety, considering the possibility of the fire blocking escape routes even before reaching the community.

In response to the crisis, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened his incident response group, urging ministers to ensure the availability of communication services and pledging to prevent price gouging on essential goods and flights.

Linda Croft, an employee at the Big River Service Station, described the extraordinary line of vehicles awaiting fuel as “phenomenal.” Angela Canning, a resident preparing to evacuate, encapsulated the prevailing emotions of anxiety and uncertainty shared by many.

The evacuation directive issued encompassed Yellowknife and its neighboring First Nations communities, Ndilo and Dettah. Indigenous communities, already grappling with the consequences of the wildfires, feared the impact on integral cultural practices like hunting, fishing, and traditional plant gathering.

Numerous other communities in the territory had already evacuated their residents, including the largely devastated community of Enterprise. Officials confirmed that all inhabitants were safely evacuated.

A harrowing account from a family leaving the town of Hay River highlighted the dangers faced during evacuation. The family’s vehicle encountered embers, leading to melting, cracked windows, and smoke-filled interiors. Amidst the chaos, a child’s fear resonated, encapsulating the deep-seated uncertainties surrounding the unfolding disaster.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Wildfire Evacuation

What is the situation described in the text?

The text discusses a massive wildfire approaching the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents.

How are authorities managing the evacuation process?

Firefighters are working to keep the only escape route open. A network of firebreaks, sprinklers, and water cannons is being set up to shield the city from the advancing fire.

How severe are the wildfire conditions?

Strong northwest winds and minimal rain are complicating firefighting efforts, increasing the risk that the fire could reach the city limits by the weekend.

How have residents responded to the evacuation order?

Thousands of people have fled the area, with some driving long distances for safety and others waiting for emergency flights.

What is the impact of this year’s wildfire season in Canada?

Canada has experienced a record number of wildfires, burning vast areas and contributing to smoky conditions in parts of the United States.

What precautions are authorities taking for the evacuation?

The Canadian government is ensuring communication services remain operational and preventing price gouging on essential goods and flights.

How are indigenous communities affected by the wildfires?

Indigenous communities, including First Nations communities, are facing displacement and disruption of cultural activities like hunting and fishing due to the wildfires.

How is the situation impacting neighboring regions?

Other communities are also under evacuation orders, and the extent of the wildfire threat is prompting residents to flee their homes in anticipation of the danger.

How are individuals coping with the evacuation process?

Residents are expressing anxiety and uncertainty as they leave their homes, uncertain about the conditions they will return to.

What are the challenges of evacuating under these circumstances?

The fire’s rapid progression and the potential for blocked escape routes emphasize the urgency of early evacuation to ensure residents’ safety.

More about Wildfire Evacuation

You may also like


heartGoesOut August 18, 2023 - 10:05 pm

reading about families fleeing and kids scared is heartbreaking. stay strong, everyone.

infoGeek August 18, 2023 - 10:19 pm

crazy stats, like over 5k fires and 137k km sq burnt? that’s huge! hope everyone stays safe.

outdoorsyExplorer August 19, 2023 - 2:27 am

whoa, these wildfires are real bad. nature can be so beautiful but also scary sometimes.

lostBelongings August 19, 2023 - 3:49 am

leaving home in a hurry must be so hard. hope ppl can go back to something normal soon.

wildfireWatcher August 19, 2023 - 5:31 am

omg this is like crazy!!! fire so big, ppl gotta leave fast. hope they all ok!!

evacuateNow August 19, 2023 - 8:04 am

seriously, the fire’s comin’ close to the city? gotta get outta there, safety first peeps!

firesEverywhere August 19, 2023 - 11:32 am

Canada, US, Europe – wildfires everywhere! we need to take better care of our planet.

smokySkies August 19, 2023 - 1:03 pm

dang, the smoke’s even reaching the US? these wildfires got no chill.

hopingForRain August 19, 2023 - 4:52 pm

fingers crossed for rain, it could help so much. stay safe, everyone in the danger zone!

concernedCitizen August 19, 2023 - 6:16 pm

wait, so many fires in Canada? that’s really not good. hope they get it under control soon.


Leave a Comment


BNB – Big Big News is a news portal that offers the latest news from around the world. BNB – Big Big News focuses on providing readers with the most up-to-date information from the U.S. and abroad, covering a wide range of topics, including politics, sports, entertainment, business, health, and more.

Editors' Picks

Latest News

© 2023 BBN – Big Big News