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Fires in Canada's north force another town to evacuate

By AFP - Aug 28,2023 - Last updated at Aug 28,2023

OTTAWA — Another town in Canada's Northwest Territories was forced to evacuate on Saturday as strong winds and rising temperatures gave new life to vast wildfires.

The threat to Hay River, a town of about 4,000, was so great that even firefighters and essential workers were ordered to leave, authorities said.

The territorial government ordered everyone still in the town to travel to the local airport and await instructions.

"Anyone who remains in Hay River is doing so at their own risk," a government statement said. "There will be no emergency services or response available".

At this point, some two-thirds of the entire population of the Northwest Territories, a vast but lightly populated area, has been evacuated to neighbouring provinces, sometimes 2,000 kilometres away.

"Extreme southwest winds have pushed the fire closer to town along the highway, forcing crews and aircraft to pull back and regroup at a safe distance," said Shane Thompson, the region's environmental minister, calling the situation "very serious". 

Fire crews are fighting a wall of flames several kilometres long, authorities said, with heavy smoke hampering use of helicopters.

Hay River Mayor Kandis Jameson said 100 residents refused to follow the evacuation order.

“To look out the window and see that fire roaring towards your town was something I will never forget,” she told a news conference Saturday.

Meanwhile, fires raging near Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories that has been evacuated for a week, continue to burn “out of control”, according to authorities.

Canada is suffering through its worst forest fire season in recorded history, with much of the country hit by high temperatures and serious drought.

A total area of 15 million hectares has now burned, an area larger than Greece. 

That is more than double the previous record, and the 2023 wildfire season is not yet over.

In all, 200,000 people have been evacuated, and fires have claimed four lives. 

Experts say global warming has aggravated the conditions that favour wildfires.

 

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