Residents of the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories began fleeing wildfires in long convoys on Thursday while air evacuations were underway for those who could not go by road, in Canada’s worst fire on record. The latest chapter in a bad fire season.

Fire information officer Mike Westwick said the fire was within 16 kilometers (10 mi) of Yellowknife’s north shore, and people in four areas of the town of 20,000 were asked to leave as soon as possible.

Westwick said residents in other areas should evacuate by Friday afternoon, as strong northerly winds could push the fire toward a highway requiring evacuation. Although some rain was predicted in the area, first responders weren’t taking any risks.

I want to be clear that the city is not in immediate danger and there is a safe window for residents to leave the city by road and air, Shane Thompson, minister for regional government, told a news conference. Without rain, it is possible that it will reach the outskirts of the city by the weekend.

Officials said the intensive care unit at Yellowknife Hospital would close within 24 hours as the Northwest Territories Health Authority began reducing its services.

The Health and Social Services Authority said on its website that in-patient units would be transferred from Stanton Territorial Hospital in the coming days if needed, and that most long-term care patients have been transferred to institutions in the south.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was calling an urgent meeting with ministers and senior officials on Thursday to discuss the evacuation.

About 6,800 people in eight other communities have already been forced to evacuate their homes, including the small community of Enterprise, where 80% of the city was destroyed. Officials said all were pulled out alive.

Canada has seen a record number of wildfires this year, with more than 5,700 fires burning in parts of the US, burning an area of ​​more than 137,000 square kilometers (53,000 sq mi), according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. As of Thursday, 1,053 wildfires were burning nationwide, more than half of which were out of control.

In the northwestern regions alone, more than 21,000 square kilometers (8,100 sq mi) have already been burned by 268 wildfires.

Officials said evacuations from the Northwest Territories have so far been safe and orderly, and evacuees from the capital who can’t find their housing can receive assistance at three centers in the nearby province of Alberta, which as of Thursday afternoon is expected to open. The nearest of those centers is over 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) by road from Yellowknife.

Officials said that only those people who do not have the option of going by road should register for evacuation flights. People who have a weakened immune system or a condition that puts them at higher risk were also encouraged to sign up.

“We are all tired of the word unprecedented, yet there is no other way to describe the situation in the Northwest Territories,” Premier Caroline Cochrane posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. He urged the residents to obey emergency management officers, traffic control devices and prescribed speed limits. “The country is watching, and our neighbors are keeping us in their thoughts and prayers.”

The evacuation order issued Wednesday night applies to the city of Yellowknife and the neighboring First Nations communities of Ndilo and Datah. Mike Westwick, the region’s fire information officer, said earlier in the day that eight communities, which together contain about 6,800 people, or 15% of the northwest region’s population, had already left.

Indigenous communities have been severely affected by wildfires, threatening important cultural activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering native plants.

The US has also seen devastating wildfires, including on the Hawaiian island of Maui, which killed more than 100 people and destroyed a historic town.

Rural areas near California’s border with Oregon were ordered to evacuate Wednesday as strong winds caused by the storm sparked lightning strikes across national forest land, officials said.

(Only the headline and image of this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content was auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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