Some evacuees come to Vancouver Island as 20,000 people flee Yellowknife wildfire


As a massive wildfire sweeps the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife residents were given until Friday to evacuate. Some have chosen to come to Vancouver Island until given the all-clear to return.

The images from around Yellowknife paint a grim picture of what’s happening and the desperate need for people to get out.

Flames from one of the biggest fires are being driven towards the city by sustained winds of 35 km/h to 50km/h.

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Officials are concerned about the city and thousands of people have been told to leave.

Connor Jeffrey left Yellowknife at 5 a.m. Friday morning with about 10 other people in a convoy of vehicles.

Their destination is Edmonton, but he might even come to Vancouver Island depending on what happens to their homes and their city.

“You know, it’s tough to leave. It’s a feeling I’ve never had before,” said Jeffrey. “We’re semi-new homeowners. We bought a couple of years ago and you’re looking around and it’s a little overwhelming. What do you take, what don’t you take? What are you willing to leave?”

His brother-in-law, Brendan Matthews, lives in Courtenay now, but he was born and raised in Yellowknife.

He has already taken in one friend and her two children who arrived here last night.

“At least they’ve had a little bit of warning, so they’ve been able to pack up everything that’s really valuable or has sentimental value for them and try to bring it with them or put it somewhere that may be safer than other places in town,” said Matthews.

“It’s pretty scary for everybody there, you really don’t know what you’re going to return to and they’re on their way down here now,” he said.

Matthews says he has room for more, and neighbours are even offering rooms in their homes.

“So mom and dad and my sister and her fiance are on their way here,” he said. “We’ve got some other friends staying with us and we’ve got neighbours here and other friends and family who have opened their doors if anyone needs a place to stay, so a few of them are going to come and just hang out here until they can go back.”

Most of Yellowknife’s 20,000 residents have evacuated by vehicle but some 5,000 others are being airlifted to safety.


Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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