Evacuation orders have been issued in Yellowknife and Kelowna, as wildfires continue to pose a threat to Canadians. 

The Northwest Territories’ government issued an evacuation order on Thursday with some flights leaving for Fort Providence, about 300 kilometres away from Yellowknife. 

The emergency flights departing from Yellowknife are limited to those with health issues and residents who cannot drive themselves, according to the evacuation order

Of the 20,000 residents of Yellowknife who are driving to refuge, they will only have one road available to leave that does not pass through the fire. The road leads south to Fort Providence and passes through the town of Enterprise, which has already been scorched by the flames. 

“There is a time to evacuate safely and this is exactly what we’re planning on doing,” said N.W.T. Environment Minister Shane Thompson. 

Thompson told residents to leave Yellowknife by noon on Friday. 

“If you’re able to and plan to leave by road, pilot vehicles will help guide drivers through smokier areas immediately outside the city,” he said.

Many residents are stocking up on additional fuel for the drive as there are few gas stations along the way. One person reported that a gas station along the drive had a lineup of cars almost a kilometre long with a wait time of several hours. 

A makeshift rest station has been set up by Alberta’s transportation ministry outside of Steen River, Alberta, just south of N.W.T. border. The stop has a Petro Canada tanker truck available to supply gas to those in need and Alberta Wildfire has donated crates of bottled water to be given out to Yellowknife residents as they stop by.

“As you know, during this record breaking wildfire season Alberta received support from across the country, and we are more than happy to help with the hard work happening in the NWT now,” said the ministry in a statement on Thursday.

The City of Kelowna, B.C. has also declared a state of emergency as a wildfire that began at McDougall Creek blew across Okanagan Lake around 1 a.m. Friday morning. The fire was initially discovered at McDougall Creek late on Tuesday night and has since grown to an estimated 11 square kilometres. 

“[Residents] should prepare to be away from their home for an extended period of time, make arrangements for pets and pack essential items such as medicines and important documents,” said Kelowna city authorities.

“Due to unpredictable fire behaviour, it is critical that all residents evacuate for their safety and the safety of first responders in the area,” said Kelowna officials in a statement. “All current orders and alerts remain in place and the public are reminded to stay out of the evacuation area as they are active fire zones,” 

“The weather is going to be erratic and significant,” said Cliff Chapman, of the B.C. Wildfire Service. Chapman is asking that everyone take the evacuation orders seriously, saying that “now is not the time” to risk taking chances.  

“When there is an evacuation order, we urge you to please leave. We will try to get you home as soon as we can.” he said. 

In a press conference on Friday, West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund said this was one of the biggest fires he’s had to fight in his career. 

“It’s like 100 years of firefighting all at once in one night,” said Brolund. “We had people trapped last night, that’s a fire chief’s worst nightmare,” he added. “Those emergency responders were trapped because they were rescuing members of the public who chose not to leave.”

Although Brolund could not provide reporters with an exact number of structures lost due to the fire, he did say that West Kelowna’s fire hall, school, dam and recently built water treatment plant have all remained intact. 

Over 2,400 properties are part of the evacuation orders and at least another 4,800 properties have been put on alert.

According to DriveBC, the fire has closed down sections of Highway 97 between Kelowna and West Kelowna.

Kelowna’s International Airport is working with several organizations including B.C. Wildfire Services, NAV Canada and Transport Canada in order to plan out safe flights for evacuees from Yellowknife.