APOCALYPTIC: Canadian wildfire in Kelowna JUMPS lake which emergency services hoped would stop it in its tracks, as map shows how blazes across country could blanket US in smog TODAY
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes across several sections of Canada after a series of wildfires which threatened to blanket the US in dangerous smog.
In Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, more than 20,000 people have been ordered to flee their homes amid ‘out of control’ wildfires that now threaten to cut off access to the only highway out of the affected city.
The infernos, which have come during Canada’s worst fire season on record, also threaten to send enormous plumes of toxic smog over the United States. An official forecast map shows smoke is expected to be blown south eastwards throughout Friday and over the Midwest into the eastern United States.
Thousands evacuated Yellowknife on Thursday as wildfires burned across the region, forcing convoys of vehicles to snake south to safety on the only open highway.
Emergency responders were constructing firebreaks, installing sprinkler lines and water cannons, and laying fire retardant in an effort to prevent the blaze from reaching the city – which remains a real possibility in coming days, officials said.
Strong northern winds could push the flames toward the only highway leading away from the fire, officials warned, which was choked with long caravans of cars.
Northwest winds over the next two days will send the fire ‘in directions we don’t want,’ said Mike Westwick, Northwest Territories’ fire information officer.
Across the wider territory, 6,800 people in eight other communities were also forced to evacuate their homes, including the small community of Enterprise, which was largely destroyed.
Without rain, it is possible (the fire) will reach the city outskirts by the weekend.’
‘We’re all tired of the word unprecedented, yet there is no other way to describe this situation in the Northwest Territories,’ Premier Caroline Cochrane posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
A state of emergency was declared in Kelowna early Friday, a city about a four-drive drive from Vancouver with a population of about 150,000.
‘Residents under Evacuation Alert are advised to be ready to leave their home at a moment’s notice,’ the City of Kelowna said in a statement early on Friday, adding people should prepare to be away from their home for an extended period of time.
As of Thursday evening, 1,046 wildfires were burning across the country, more than half of them out of control.
In the Northwest Territories, 268 wildfires have already burned more than 21,000 square kilometres (8,100 square miles).
Crews scrambled to erect fire barriers as one blaze got to within 9 miles (16 kilometers) of Yellowknife. Water bombers were seen flying low over the city, and swooping in to fill up at a nearby lake.
Resident Sylvia Webster said ‘a lot of trees were cut down and sprinkler lines were set up around the city’ to bolster its defenses.
‘We might still lose everything, but that’s okay,’ she told AFP. ‘As long as our loved ones are safe, we can move on from there.’
Several military aircraft have already been dispatched, along with more than 120 soldiers to help beat back the flames.
In what had already been declared the Northwest Territories’ largest-ever evacuation, the emptying of Yellowknife now means half the population of the near-Arctic territory will soon be displaced.
Images shared on social media and on Canadian television showed large swaths of blackened forests. Evacuees reported seeing abandoned vehicles and burned carcasses of wildlife, including bears, on roadsides.
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