Wildfires in British Columbia, westernmost province, of Canada were “rapidly evolving” on Saturday, prompting officials to urge thousands of residents to leave the beautiful Okanagan Valley and the city of Kelowna.
Emergency services minister Bowinn Ma described the situation in the popular recreation area as “highly dynamic.” She also reported that another 36,000 individuals were on notice and preparing to evacuate if the need arose.
The importance of complying with evacuation instructions, Ma added at a news conference that afternoon, cannot be overstated. Yellowknife, the regional capital of the Northwest Territories, has been evacuated due to a fire.
She said “They are a matter of life and death not only for the people in those properties, but also for the first responders who will often go back to try to implore people to leave.” Kelowna, a city of 150,000, was the latest population area to be devastated by the catastrophic wildfires that have swept across Canada this summer, leaving millions of acres in its wake and filling the air with heavy smoke.
Officials of Canada give statements
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has committed federal assistance in the wake of the “rapidly evolving and incredibly devastating wildfire situation” in British Columbia. Fires in the nearby Northwest Territories have forced the evacuation of Yellowknife, the provincial capital, turning the once bustling metropolis of 20,000 people into a virtual ghost town.
The wildfires that have been blowing into Yellowknife have been mitigated by the overnight rain and temperature drop. “Just because it rained a little doesn’t mean it’s safe to come back home,” Northwest Territories cautioned.
Shane Thompson, Canada’s Environment Minister, Addresses a Saturday Night Press Conference. “Though the surface may not show fire, it’s still active and it’s huge,” he added, adding that temperatures are anticipated to rise again on Sunday.
Official Chris Greencorn of Yellowknife lauded the efforts of construction personnel clearing big areas for firebreaks and laying pipelines for sprinklers and water cannons as part of the city’s defences. When he said, “basically this represents approximately two full Yellowknife construction seasons completed in less than six days,” he wasn’t exaggerating.
Former Northwest Territories commissioner and lifelong Yellowknife resident Tony Whitford, who was on one of the first flights out, praised the evacuation. Whitford, who is 82 and uses a wheelchair, praised the event’s organisers, saying, “My compliments to them all.” Amazingly, it involves 20,000 individuals despite its apparent simplicity.
There were no hiccups. Earlier, a number of settlements and Native American communities had to be evacuated. Thompson estimated that as much as two-thirds of the people of the near-Arctic territory had been uprooted due to the flight from Yellowknife and elsewhere.
Trudeau met with Yellowknife evacuees on Friday as they landed in Edmonton, Alberta, having lost everything due to the ongoing fires. Calgary officials have reported that over 40 aircraft carrying approximately 3,500 people had landed in the city.
Several homes in West Kelowna, British Columbia, have burned down. This area is isolated from the bigger, more populous city of Kelowna by Okanagan Lake. According to the local press, one of these is the Lake Okanagan Resort, which has played host to notable figures including the former British prime leader Margaret Thatcher. On Saturday, Eby issued an urgent order banning all but essential travel to the region.
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