– Canada is fighting the equivalent of a 100-year fire overnight
Mass evacuations continue Friday in many parts of Canada affected by massive wildfires.
“We overcame a 100-year fire overnight”: Canada fought a multi-frontal battle Friday against a giant blaze that forced authorities to order the evacuation of an entire city in the far north and threatened parts of British Columbia. 2000 km away.
A veritable race against time began in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, where 20,000 people had to evacuate by Friday afternoon. Mass evacuations are particularly problematic because the region is isolated, and the nearest reception center is a thousand kilometers away.
In West Kelowna, British Columbia, about 400 km from Vancouver, firefighters and officials said they had a “very difficult” night. By road or air, the evacuation of Yellowknife is “going very well,” Civil Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told a news conference. But “the situation is very difficult,” said Defense Minister Bill Blair. With smoke from the wildfires already hanging over the city, backpacks on their backs and hands, residents formed long lines Thursday to try to get on emergency evacuation planes.
A mustered army
Arlene Talbot, who lives in Yellowknife, explained to CBC that she paid 1,000 Canadian dollars (678 euros) for a one-way ticket on a commercial flight to Edmonton. “I’m mentally exhausted, and I think most people are because the situation is so worrisome,” he said.
Frank Higgins, who lives in Yellowknife, told Canadian Public Television that he was preparing for a very long hour of driving and hitting the road not knowing where to go. “Maybe in Saskatchewan,” he said, pouring gas into his vehicle.
The army was mobilized to evacuate the people. About 1,500 residents have already evacuated by air and hundreds more by ground, officials said, with twice as many flights planned for Friday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to travel Friday night to an evacuation center in Edmonton, about 1,000 km from Yellowknife, his office announced in the afternoon.
In West Kelowna (population more than 30,000), British Columbia, a “significant number” of homes burned, according to officials, who called on people to be alert and prepared to evacuate in case of an emergency. Some areas have already been ordered to be evacuated.
“Mother Nature is very strong”
A state of emergency was declared across Okanagan Lake in Kelowna (about 150,000 people), and airspace in the region was closed “to assist aerial efforts to fight the fire.”
Thursday night was “probably one of the hardest nights of my career,” West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Broland said. “We fought the equivalent of a 100-year fire in one night,” he told reporters.
“All efforts have been taken to minimize the impact of the fire. But in the end, Mother Nature was too strong,” admitted local Kelowna official Loyal Wooldridge. And “unfortunately, we’re not off the hook. Last night was probably a taste of what’s in store for us in the coming days. According to Jason Broland, the wind is actually stronger than the day before. In Yellowknife, there were fears that the wind would not favor the firefighters and that the fire would reach the city later this week.
Canada has experienced more extreme weather events in recent years, the intensity and frequency of which have increased due to global warming, and is experiencing a record wildfire season this year. More than a thousand fires are currently ravaging the country from east to west, including more than 230 fires in the Northwest Territories and more than 370 in British Columbia.
Since the wildfire season began in Canada, 168,000 Canadians have been evacuated across the country and 14 million hectares — the size of Greece — have burned, more than double the last record since 1989.