Canada
'It's just gone. Everything,' Yellowknife woman says of wildfire's damage

YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

Credits: SUPPLIED PHOTO

QMI AGENCY

The plan had been to take a big summer road trip, but Candace McQuatt had no idea how much of an adventure the trip would be.

The Yellowknife woman and her dogs left the city Tuesday evening, but hit a roadblock on Hwy. 3 due to smoke from forest fires in the area.

Officials told her if she waited until morning, she'd be able to get an escort through. So she and the dogs slept in the truck.

Driving in an escorted convoy early the next morning, McQuatt said she could not believe the devastation.

"It's just gone. Everything. There's just sticks of wood sticking up where there were trees. There's no vegetation. It's really eerie looking," McQuatt recalled.

Now, McQuatt is making her way to Kelowna, B.C., for a family reunion and said she'll have to keep her eyes on wildfire reports in that province.

In British Columbia, evacuation orders and alerts have been issued for areas south of Kamloops, Hudson Hope, and Entiako Provincial Park.

Thursday night, West Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley was the latest area to be issued an evacuation order. That affected 585 homes and 1,500 residents.

As well, workers at gas and oil work camps have been ordered to leave as a fire rages near Tumbler Ridge, about 10 km from the Alberta border. Crews in Alberta are providing air support.

"The fire's very hot and dangerous. We really can't get too close to it at the moment so we're doing air tanker drops, bucketing, structural protection and cutting firebreaks," Kelly Burke with Alberta Environmental Sustainable Resources Development said.

So far, 569 fires in B.C. have destroyed 53,000 hectares of land.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark tweeted Wednesday the province is experiencing the driest conditions since 1958 and the cost of battling the blazes is between $3 to $5 million a day.

In Alberta, 840 fires have burned more than 14,000 hectares. An evacuation order was issued overnight Tuesday for seven residents of the MD of Greenview, southwest of Grande Prairie, Alta.

Ash was falling in Edmonton and Alberta Health Services warned that air quality will be affected over the next few days.

Just 205 fires in the Northwest Territories have scorched more than 855,600 hectares of land. The fires have been creeping closer to Yellowknife, although city officials say there is no threat to the city, just a lot of smoke.

Despite the threat, last week photographer Jason Simpson and some friends went on a canoe trip, which took them past Reid Lake Territorial Park in the N.W.T., which has been closed to campers but is serving as a base for firefighters.

"When we were going through that area on Wednesday, it was really smoky," Simpson said.

Back in Yellowknife, he said the smoke is a problem because it has been hot and many people don't own air conditioners, so they keep windows and doors open.

"The fires wouldn't really affect us, it's more the smoke that will be an issue," he said.

If the smoke gets too heavy, "People are going to have to start leaving town."

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