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Massive Lines Of People Wait To Be Evacuated From Yellowknife As Wildfire Rages


  • Yellowknife residents ordered to evacuate due to wildfires. Lack of evacuation flights caused frustration among those waiting at the airport.
  • Those without cars instructed to go to local high school for evacuation. Line got longer before opening time, moved slowly throughout the day.
  • Extensive evacuation planned for Friday with multiple flights scheduled. Airlines and military providing assistance. Passengers told to bring essential items and can bring pets.

The entire city of Yellowknife, which is in the Northwest Territories of Canada, has been ordered to evacuate by noon on Friday, August 18. This is due to raging wildfires that are creeping through the Northwest Territories. However, as hundreds of residents waited patiently to get into the airport, all available evacuation flights slowly booked up.

Impeding wildfires in the city

Although the entire city has been ordered to evacuate, many residents do not have cars and are unable to leave the city on their own. Because of this, the local government stated that those who were unable to leave the city on their own should show up at a local high school. The people who showed up in line at the high school were able to get on the next evacuation flights out of the city.

The announcement said to begin showing up at the high school at 10:00 local time. However, by 9:30, there were hundreds of people lined up along the street.

WestJet Boeing 737 MAX On The Ground In Calgary

Photo: Welshboy2020 | Shutterstock

The line moved slowly throughout the day as weather further complicated the evacuation flights. Police and military personnel went through the line handing out snacks and water. The personnel also set up chairs for those that needed them.

Amy Kennedy, a director of communications with the government of the Northwest Territories, spoke about the long line of travelers and the lack of evacuation flights. She stated,

“We understand that this is deeply frustrating for those who have been in line for several hours and who will need to line up again tomorrow. Many individuals with mobility issues and who are immunocompromised or have a condition that puts them at higher risk of severe outcomes due to smoke were moved up in line, and we would like to thank everyone for their cooperation in making this happen.”

Kennedy sent an additional email at 2:40 pm today. The email stated that only the next 200–400 residents that were in line at the local high school would be able to fit on today’s remaining evacuation flights.

Extensive evacuation is scheduled for Friday

The local government stated that the first evacuation flight was set to depart at 8:00 local time. Additional evacuation flights are scheduled for 13:00, 14:00, 19:00, 20:00, and 20:30 local time. Additional flights are being set up for during the day Friday and going through Saturday.

Air Canada Airbus A220-300 on the ground

Photo: Air Canada

Air Canada was an airline that is working to assist local authorities. The airline added two additional flights to its flight schedule on Friday and doubled its daily flights. Air Canada also capped its fares for non-stop flights out of Yellowknife.

WestJet also added another flight on Thursday. The airline is also upgrading the aircraft to bigger sizes on existing flights out of Yellowknife.

The remainder of the new flights are being ferried by the Canadian Armed Forces. A J Hercules, Twin Otter, and three Griffon Helicopters are all based in Yellowknife and will be utilized for evacuation flights.

Passengers that are going on evacuation flights are told to bring five total days’ worth of clothing and only additional essential items. This includes medication, chargers, important documents, and other supplies. Household pets are being allowed on commercial carriers as long as they are crated. Pets are allowed on military aircraft as well.


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