People pour out of Yellowknife under evacuation order

By Jeff Pelletier, Nunatsiaq News - August 17, 2023
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Smoke descends on Yellowknife as fires surround the city earlier this summer. People are being asked to leave the city of 20,000 by noon Friday, as a fire approaches. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Davey-Quantick)

Here is a list of resources for people preparing to leave N.W.T. capital city of 20,000

Yellowknife is under a full evacuation order as several forest fires encroach on the city.

The Northwest Territories government issued the order Wednesday night for Yellowknife and nearby communities Ndilo and Dettah. It has been an unprecedented fire season in the territory, with a total of eight communities under evacuation order.

People in Enterprise, Fort Smith, Hay River, K’atl’odeeche First Nation and Jean Marie River were told to leave their homes earlier this week.

As of 11 p.m. ET Wednesday, the fire threatening Yellowknife was 16 kilometres away from the closest municipal boundary. The government stated in the update there is a possibility that without rain, the fire could reach the city by the weekend.

People are being asked to leave by Friday at noon. Yellowknife is a city of 20,000 with a population that includes hundreds of Inuit.

Here is a list of resources for our readers inside the city trying to get out, and those outside the city looking for how they can check on those who are leaving.

For those driving out of Yellowknife

It is safe as of Thursday morning to drive out of the city via Highway 3, toward Alberta. The Northwest Territories government maintains a live map of highway conditions, warning travellers that conditions could change with little notice.

There is a refuelling station with water and washrooms at a depot in Steen River, Alta.

Evacuees travelling by road are asked to find their own accommodations if possible. Those who need accommodation and support can head to Valleyview, Alta.’s Palace Arena; Fox Creek, Alta.’s Fox Creek Hall; and Red Deer, Alta., at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre.

Here’s the full list of government information for those who choose to drive out of Yellowknife.

For those evacuating by air

Air evacuations are beginning at 1 p.m. local time Thursday.

People are asked to head to Sir John Franklin School with their baggage after 10 a.m. Bag size is limited to regular carry-on, and passengers are asked to bring no more than five days worth of clothes.

Air evacuees will travel directly to Calgary. Flights are scheduled for 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Only those who do not have the option to travel by road are being asked to register for evacuation flights. Those who are immunocompromised are encouraged to register for flights as soon as possible.

Pets will be permitted on all flights but may have to be crated.

Here is a list of recommended things to pack in an emergency kit.

For those who choose to stay

The government says sheltering in place is an option of last resort.

Those who stay in Yellowknife can either go to the Multiplex, stay home, or stay with family. Those who go to the Multiplex will be asked to register on arrival. Those who shelter in a private residence can register online here.

There will be food at the Multiplex, but people are also asked to bring non-perishable food with them. Those who come to the Multiplex are being asked to bring no more than five days worth of clothes as well as sleeping bags, blankets and essentials such as medications, chargers and important family documents.

Please do not evacuate by boat to an island or cabin, the territorial government advised, as air quality is expected to deteriorate further.

For those outside of N.W.T. looking for loved ones

People can check in or search for friends or family via this Facebook group.

Nunavut medical travellers and their escorts

The GN said Wednesday in a public service announcement it’s working to get medical travellers and escorts out of Yellowknife.

Those travellers will receive care in other jurisdictions or return home upon a medical clearance or discharge. Any remaining travellers will be taken to Edmonton.

Reach out to us

Are you from Nunavut and in the Northwest Territories trying to escape the wildfires? Do you have family or friends there whose safety you are worried about?

If so, we’d like to hear from you today to help us provide coverage of the ongoing N.W.T. wildfires and their impact on Nunavummiut.

Please email reporter Jeff Pelletier at . You can also call the Nunatsiaq News newsroom at (867) 979-5358.


Located in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Nunatsiaq News is dedicated to covering affairs in Nunavut and the Nunavik territory of Quebec since 1973. It has been a partner to ArcticToday and its predecessors since 2016.

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