Wildfire in Canada: Yellowknife evacuees denied boarding on full flights

As a conflagration approaches the northern Canadian city of Yellowknife, angry evacuees have been turned away from overbooked evacuation flights. Officials instructed those who waited in lengthy lines to board flights on Thursday to try again on Friday or Saturday.

The two largest airlines in the country are also receiving criticism for rising air fares and rescheduling fees. As of Thursday, the fire was located 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the north-west of Yellowknife.

It is one of roughly 240 wildfires raging in the Northwest Territories, which declared a state of emergency Tuesday night.

While the region is extensive and sparsely populated, Yellowknife, its capital, is home to approximately 20,000 people who have been ordered to evacuate the city by Friday at noon.

On Thursday, an enormous line of individuals waiting to register for evacuation flights had formed in front of a local high school. Police and military personnel moved down the line, distributing refreshments, water, and chairs amid a light rain.

Amy Kennedy, the government's director of communications, stated that no more than 400 individuals could be flown out of Yellowknife in the afternoon local time.

Ms. Kennedy wrote: "We realize that this is extremely frustrating for those who have waited in line for several hours and will have to wait in line again tomorrow."

She stated that those with mobility issues and those with compromised immune systems had been moved to the front of the line.

Officials stated in a Thursday evening briefing that 22 flights were scheduled for Friday and that 1,800 passengers should be able to board.

They estimated that roughly 5,000 individuals must depart Yellowknife by air. Locals have accused Air Canada and WestJet of inflating prices for outbound flights and changing fees for passengers with forthcoming Yellowknife flights.

A spokesperson for Air Canada told CBC News that direct flight fares have been capped and that the airline is presently doubling its regular operations in the city.

However, he noted that flying restrictions have been imposed due to the flames and that Air Canada had canceled Saturday flights.

WestJet informed the media outlet that it had altered fares to prevent "price escalation" and was waiving rescheduling fees for customers traveling to Yellowknife within the next five days. Additionally, other airlines have been asked to assist people escape the city.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that he had made contact with the city's mayor to discuss the current situation.

On social media he wrote that he reaffirmed the government's commitment to providing assistance now and in the coming days and weeks."

The Canadian military has coordinated the largest airlift evacuation endeavor in the history of the Northwest Territories, where approximately 46,000 people reside. Also under evacuation orders are Fort Smith, K'atl'odeeche First Nation, Hay River, Enterprise, and Jean Marie River.

Thursday saw the issuance of an evacuation order for Kakisa, a community of about 40 people located 130 kilometers from Hay River.

The reason cited by experts is a spring that was warmer and drier than usual. According to scientists, climate change heightens the probability of scorching, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires.