Tens of Thousands Evacuate as Canadian Wildfires Worsen

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The McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna (Image Credit: CNN)

Canada is currently suffering from its worst-ever wildfire season on record, with over 1,000 fires burning nationwide. At least 30,000 people have already been ordered to evacuate in Canada’s British Columbia province. 

Cities and towns, such as Kelowna, Kamloops, etc., have been restricted in access to accommodate emergency workers and evacuees. Wildfire has already destroyed homes in the city of West Keloma, a city of around 38,000 occupants. Residents of West Keloma have been ordered to evacuate 2,400 properties, while an additional 4,800 properties are on evacuation alert. The fire engulfing West Keloma has so far grown 6 times larger overnight, stretching over 26 miles.

Hundreds of miles north of West Keloma, a massive fire has been enclosing around the city of Yellowknife. Fire Information Officer Mike Westwick has said that the fire is currently around 9 miles northwest of Yellowknife, mainly because of cooler temperatures, which slowed the fire’s advance and cleared some smoke, making it easier for air tankers to work on stopping the fire. 

Meanwhile, nearly all the residents have so far evacuated. Thousands of people living in cities struck by the wildfire, just like Yellowknife, have already driven hundreds of kilometers to safety, while others have needed to wait in long lines for emergency flights to evacuate.  

More than 19,000 people out of Yellowknife’s 20,000 occupants have already left in less than 48 hours. Roughly 15,000 people left by car, while around 3,800 flew out.

In order to protect cities and people from the fire, air tankers have flown overnight missions, repeatedly delivering fire retardant or water to keep the only route out of Yellowknife open. In the meantime, a network of fire guards, sprinklers, and water cannons have also been used to protect Yellowknife and combat the fire. 

This record-breaking wildfire has first resulted from increased lightning. Fire damage then becomes fueled by a combination of dry weather and dense forests. Experts also warn how climate change could have also held a role in the rise of deadly wildfires by leading to increased hot and dry weather, which can fuel wildfires. Hot and dry weather can evaporate moisture from the ground, making it easier for fires to sustain themselves.  

Written by Kevin Han

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