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Canada evacuates Yellowknife as wildfire threatens towns

Canadian officials ordered on Wednesday the evacuation of the Northwest Territories’ capital of Yellowknife and several smaller communities as a massive wildfire threatened the town of Hay River overnight.

Reuters reports that teams were working to evacuate Hay River, a community of some 3,000 on Great Slave Lake, by bus or plane on Wednesday night as the fire approached.

“Hay River saw the fire south of their community increase, get closer to the city today,” fire information officer, Mike Westwick said at a news briefing on Wednesday evening.

“We saw highly active fire in that area and it was moving quickly.”

Mr Westwick said the blaze could reach Yellowknife by this weekend barring rain and that residents of the capital were also being asked to leave as part of a “phased evacuation” beginning with the most threatened communities.

So far, no deaths have been reported from the Yellowknife fire but several structures have been destroyed.

Yellowknife has a population of around 20,000 people and lies 250 miles (400 km) south of the Arctic circle.

Canada, according to a recent Reuters report, has been enduring its worst wildfire season with more than 1,000 active fires burning across the country, including 230 in the Northwest Territories.

Thousands of residents of the sparsely populated territory have already fled smaller communities and the hamlet of Enterprise near the Alberta border was almost entirely destroyed by a blaze that swept through on Sunday.

Northwest Territories Premier, Caroline Cochrane said some Yellowknife residents were preemptively leaving the city but urged people to remain calm and warned that highways could close suddenly because of the fire risk.