A wildfire is approaching Yellowknife, the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories, causing residents to rush to evacuate before a noon deadline on Friday. Firefighters are working to keep the only route out of the city open, with airtankers flying missions overnight and authorities guiding motorists through fire zones. Efforts are also being made to establish fire guards, sprinklers, and water cannons to protect the city. However, northwest winds and minimal rain are making it difficult to slow the fire, which could reach the city limits by the weekend. Emergency officials have stated that there is a chance of limited rain on Friday, but it is unlikely to be enough to stop the fire.
Thousands of people have already fled the fire, one of many wildfires raging in the territories. Ten planes left Yellowknife on Thursday with 1,500 passengers, and the agency responsible for emergency flights hopes to send 22 flights on Friday with 1,800 more passengers. The city is virtually empty, with only a few businesses still open. The heavy smoke expected to move in increases the urgency of evacuating.
Canada has experienced a record number of wildfires this year, with over 5,700 fires burning over 137,000 square kilometers. As of Friday morning, over 1,000 wildfires were burning across the country, with more than half of them out of control. In addition to the wildfire threatening Yellowknife, residents in West Kelowna, British Columbia, were ordered to evacuate 2,400 properties, while another 4,800 properties were on evacuation alert due to a nearby wildfire.
The evacuation of Yellowknife is the largest this year and is being carried out to ensure people can escape before the fire potentially blocks the only route out of the community. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has instructed ministers to ensure communication services remain available and has emphasized that there will be no tolerance for price gouging on flights or essential goods. Indigenous communities in the area have been particularly affected by the wildfires, which pose a threat to their cultural activities such as hunting and fishing.