Mass evacuations as wildfires rip through western Canada

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By Webdesk

State of emergency declared as devastation in British Columbia province and Northwest Territories is the latest in wildfires across the country.

Firefighters battled raging wildfires that encroached on two metropolitan areas in western Canada – blazes that have sent tens of thousands fleeing over the course of just days.

An out-of-control fire in southern BC grew more than one hundredfold in 24 hours.

As conditions continued to deteriorate quickly through Friday evening, British Colombia (BC) Premier Daniel Eby declared a province-wide state of emergency to access temporary authoritative powers to tackle fire-related risks.

“This is an historic wildfire season for British Columbia,” Eby told a media briefing. “The state of emergency declaration … communicates to people across the province the seriousness of the deteriorating situation.”

Blazes also burned near Lytton in the Fraser Canyon – razed by a wildfire in 2021 – and Invermere in southeast BC.

The devastating fires in BC and the Northwest Territories are just the latest in a summer of dramatic wildfires across the country.

Yellowknife, capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, was transformed into a virtual ghost town after nearly all residents of the city of 20,000 fled.

The evacuations took place over 48 hours, Environment Minister Shane Thompson said, with about 15,000 driving out in convoys and 3,800 leaving on emergency flights.

There are fears the only escape route could be cut off as about 2,600 people remained behind, including emergency teams, firefighters, utility workers and police officers, along with residents who refused to leave.

More than 2,000km (1,200 miles) south in BC, fire also bore down on Kelowna, a city of 150,000 people in the Okanagan Valley.

Blazes have already destroyed several properties in West Kelowna, separated by Okanagan Lake from its larger, eponymous neighbour.

Overall, the number of people under evacuation order in BC was 15,000, said Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma. Thousands in the area were ordered flee or told to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Canada has continued to reel from a record fire season that has killed four people so far and caused choking smoke in parts of the United States.

All told, there have been more than 5,700 fires that have burned more than 137,000 square kilometres (53,000sq miles) from one end of Canada to the other, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

In addition, the fires have emitted an unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide.

Scientists say human-caused global warming is exacerbating natural disasters, making them both more frequent and more deadly.

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