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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Yellowknifers head to Alberta as serious wildfire conditions continue

Low on data or power? Read a low-bandwidth version of this story here. For more stories, see our CBC North news website.

Yellowknifers are fleeing the city as wildfires approach and the situation continues to change rapidly.

Extreme conditions persisted where the fire is burning west of the city. Fire information officer Mike Westwick told CBC News that rain in the forecast Thursday will not be enough to quell the fire. 

Watch Mike Westwick give the latest on the fires Thursday morning

Get the latest details on the N.W.T. wildfires

Mike Westwick, the fire information officer for Yellowknife, gave an update on what officials know about the wildfires as of Thursday morning. Westwick urged people to follow the direction of officials, saying ‘our team on the ground is doing absolutely everything possible.’

Yellowknife evacuees traveling by road are being asked, so far as is possible, to arrange for their own accommodations but those in need of supports and accommodations in Alberta can receive these supports in the following communities: 

  • Valleyview: Palace Arena : 4429, 52e Avenue. 
  • Fox Creek: Fox Creek Hall, 200 1st Street. 
  • Red Deer: G.H. Dawe Community Centre, 6175 67 St. 

CBC News staff based in Yellowknife are also heading south, and reporting good driving conditions, despite heavy traffic Wednesday night.

One staffer who left around 10:30 p.m. reported driving just 30 kilometres in four hours en route to Fort Providence. Another, who left at 4:45 a.m. Thursday said he met with smooth sailing and by 8 a.m. was waiting in line at the Big River gas station in Fort Providence for gas. 

Despite rumours that the station is running short of gas, manager Linda Croft told CBC News Thursday morning that the station has ample gas and does not expect to run out.

N.W.T. residents who are required to evacuate, preparing to evacuate, or have already evacuated are being asked to fill out an Evacuee Registration Form. The extraordinary evacuation order affects nearly 22,000 people in Yellowknife.

Those who have already evacuated and registered at an evacuation reception centre in Alberta, including Grand Prairie, Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray or St. Albert, do not need to complete the form.

Some good news in Hay River, N.W.T. The fire burning there had been expected to reach the community late Wednesday. However, N.W.T. Fire reported shifting winds late Wednesday evening. 

“Thanks to some lake effect pushing the fire onto itself, the column is going straight up and has stalled approximately 10 kilometres from the community,” the post read.

Air evacuations to begin Thursday

People who cannot leave by road, and residents who are immunocompromised or have other conditions that put them at higher risk, are asked to register for evacuation flights. Air evacuations are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday. 

Air evacuees are being advised to go to Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife, with standard carry-on baggage only, after 10 a.m. Thursday. Pets will be allowed on commercial carriers, but must be crated. On military aircraft, pets should be crated if possible. 

Air Canada has also added two additional flights from Yellowknife to Vancouver and to Calgary to depart on Thursday.

Evacuees are urged to not leave by boat to a cabin or island on Great Slave Lake.

See the fire update from N.W.T. officials from Aug. 16

See the fire update from N.W.T. officials from Aug. 16

Northwest Territories officials provided an update Wednesday evening on wildfire situation and evacuation orders. Correction: An earlier version of this incorrectly stated the briefing was from Thursday. It was in fact from Wednesday evening.

The territorial government has provided the following information for residents:

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