Firefighting crews are battling massive wildfires in parts of Western Canada, where thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate out of the path of the advancing flames.
Authorities in the Northwest Territories issued a state of emergency this week as more than 230 wildfires burned across the sprawling territory, including a major fire that is approaching its capital and largest city, Yellowknife.
Officials have ordered the city’s 20,000 residents to evacuate by noon (18:00 GMT) on Friday. Thousands have fled, driving hundreds of kilometres to safety or waiting in long lines for emergency flights.
At the Big River Service Station about 300km (185 miles) south of Yellowknife, a line of vehicles waiting for fuel was “phenomenal”, employee Linda Croft said. “You can’t see the end of it.”
Resident Angela Canning packed up her camper with important documents, family keepsakes and basic necessities as she prepared to leave with her two dogs while her husband stayed behind as an essential worker.
“I’m really anxious, and I’m scared. I’m emotional. … I’m in shock,” Canning said. “I don’t know what I’m coming home to or if I’m coming home. There’s just so much unknown here.”
More than 1,000 wildfires are burning across Canada, according to an interagency fire tracker, as the country continues to reel from a record fire season.
Of those, 236 were active in the Northwest Territories while another 372 were burning in British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province.
A state of emergency was declared early on Friday in Kelowna, a British Columbia city about 400km (249 miles) northeast of Vancouver, and some residents were told to leave. Some of the hills around the city blazed in the predawn light.
“Residents under Evacuation Alert are advised to be ready to leave their home at a moment’s notice,” the city said in a statement, adding that people should prepare to be away from their home for an extended period of time.
The evacuation orders were issued after wildfires that were discovered on Tuesday jumped Lake Okanagan, sparking spot wildfires in Kelowna.
British Columbia is under the threat of dry lightning igniting more blazes in its sun-baked forests. The province has suffered unusually intense fires this year, and officials are warning residents to prepare for extreme conditions.
The province warned that the next day or two could be the most challenging from a fire perspective this year.