Climate change: Military airlifts hundreds to safety from fires
In Fort Smith, Canada’s Northwest Territories, Michel Labine has often been the one fighting wildfires and helping evacuees.
As a nearby forest fire inched closer to his community, the 63-year-old found himself for the first time on the other side.
There was a haze in the sky on Saturday morning, but it was pitch black by noon due to the fires.
“Then it broke up a bit and there was just a red, amber sky,” Mr Labine said. It was then that he noticed fire trucks driving from house to house warning people to leave.
He was later airlifted to Fort McMurray, Alberta by the military, 365 kilometers away. As far as the history of the territory is concerned, this is the largest airlift in the territory’s history.
It was only the essentials that the Labines were able to escape with.
According to Mr Labine, we had no luggage. “I had my bag with my medical items but that was it. We didn’t have anything.”
Over 6,500 people have been ordered to evacuate parts of the Northwest Territories due to 236 active wildfires.
According to the Hay River mayor, time is running out to escape the small town of Hay River. The government declared a territory-wide state of emergency on Tuesday.
“This is a life-threatening situation,” Kandis Jameson said at a news conference, adding that the fire is 15 kilometers from the town. About 500 people have not yet been evacuated, according to Ms Jameson.
Hay River is evacuating for the second time this summer. In addition to the Fort Smith evacuees, the town also housed those forced to flee on Sunday.
According to Mr Labine, Hay River had over 5,000 people when it was evacuated. Fort Smith sent a lot of people, so there were 4,000 people instead of 3,500.
So far, 13.2 million hectares (32.6 million acres) have been burned – roughly the size of Greece