Smoke rises from a wildfire near Keremeos, British Columbia, Canada. Reuters
Residents of one of the largest cities in Canada's far north were ordered Wednesday to flee amid warnings that raging wildfires could reach it by the weekend.
The crisis in the town of Yellowknife is the newest chapter of a terrible summer for wildfires in Canada, as flames spread quickly across the country, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate and charring large swathes of land.
More than 1,000 wildfires are currently burning across the vast country, including about 230 in the Northwest Territories, in Canada's taste of a very hot and destructive summer in much of the Northern Hemisphere.
"Unfortunately, our wildfire situation has taken another turn for the worse with a fire burning west of Yellowknife now representing a real threat to the city," Shane Thompson, the Northwest Territories' environment minister, told a news conference.
He ordered the city's nearly 20,000 residents to leave by noon Friday. There is only one highway open to the south. Commercial and military flights were also being arranged.
Residents leave the city on Highway 3 after an evacuation order was given due to a wildfire in Yellowknife. Reuters
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The wildfire as of late Wednesday was within 17 kilometers (11 miles) of Yellowknife, which is the regional capital.
"I want to stress that the city is not in immediate danger," Thompson said.
But he added: "Without rain, it is possible (the fire) will reach the city outskirts by the weekend."
"You put yourself and others at risk if you choose to stay later," he said.
Yellowknife declared an emergency earlier this week, which was soon expanded across the huge northern territory as firefighters were forced to pull back in some areas.
Strong winds have stoked the flames, and several towns and Indigenous communities are already under evacuation orders.
Thousands more have been told to be prepared to leave on a moment's notice, as the number of fires — fanned by strong winds — jumped to 110. One-third of the blazes were listed as out of control.
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