Wildfires in Northwest Territories Expected to Worsen due to Weather Conditions

Officials in the Northwest Territories have expressed concern that the weather forecast for the next week may exacerbate the wildfires raging across the territory. Efforts to contain the fires have been underway, with particular focus on the areas near Fort Smith and First Nations communities in Hay River. However, strong winds and warmer temperatures reaching around 20C are expected, making firefighting efforts more challenging.

The government has been closely monitoring a fire located 15 kilometers northwest of Yellowknife, especially with shifting winds blowing towards the east. Firebreaks have been created, and sprinklers and air tankers have been used to prevent the fires from spreading further. However, westerly winds and higher temperatures in the 20s are predicted for Sunday, which will likely result in increased fire activity.

As of Saturday, there were 236 active fires in the Northwest Territories, with a total of 269 fires reported this year. These fires have already burned more than 21,000 square kilometers of land. The weather forecast for Yellowknife predicts a chance of showers with a risk of thunderstorms, along with northwest wind gusts.

Due to the wildfire smoke, air quality statements have been issued for Yellowknife and surrounding areas. The air quality index has ranged from “very high” to “moderate” throughout the day. To ensure their safety, vulnerable residents have been transferred on evacuation flights. Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green confirmed that 39 patients from Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife were transported to British Columbia. Tragically, one patient passed away during the preparations for transport.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has been actively involved in the evacuation efforts. Five CAF flights have transported approximately 160 residents from Fort Smith and Hay River to Fort McMurray, Alberta, while 160 Yellowknife residents were brought to Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. Over 200 CAF members have been deployed to assist with the wildfire response.

With approximately half of the population displaced by the ongoing wildfires, officials have declared a state of emergency in the Northwest Territories. Despite evacuation orders, some residents have chosen to stay and protect their properties. Yellowknife Mayor Rebecca Alty urges these individuals to leave, as it hinders firefighting efforts and puts lives at risk.

Yellowknife, along with other communities in the Northwest Territories, is currently under evacuation orders. Most residents have sought refuge in Alberta and Manitoba through road trips or evacuation flights. The B.C. government has also declared a state of emergency due to wildfires in the West Kelowna area.

Although there has been some rainfall, officials caution against assuming that the situation is under control. The wildfires continue to pose a significant threat, and residents are urged to take evacuation orders seriously.

As the wildfires persist, the impact extends beyond the physical damage. Local radio stations, such as 100.1 True North Radio in Yellowknife, have also been affected. Devin Bellinger, the programming director, noted mixed feelings among residents, with some leaving voluntarily and others remaining behind. Despite currently staying, Bellinger has plans in place to evacuate if necessary.

Highway 3, the primary route in and out of Yellowknife, remains open for those who are choosing to leave the city.