Canada wildfires: British Columbia declares emergency as 15,000 homes told to evacuate

About 15,000 households have been ordered to evacuate in Canada’s British Columbia, as firefighters battle raging wildfires that have set homes ablaze.

Officials said a “significant” number of buildings caught fire in West Kelowna, a city of 36,000 people, and more than 2,400 homes were evacuated.

A state of emergency has been declared for the entire province, where hundreds of separate fires are burning.

Hundreds of miles north, a huge fire edges towards the city of Yellowknife.

An official deadline to evacuate the city – the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories – lapsed on Friday. A local official said later that day that nearly all residents had left, either by car or plane.

About 19,000 of the city’s 20,000 inhabitants had evacuated, the territories’ environment and communities minister Shane Thompson told reporters.

“Some are choosing to shelter in place. If you are still in Yellowknife and you are not essential to the emergency response, please evacuate,” Mr Thompson said.

He warned that the highways and airport could be impacted by the wildfires.

The numbers behind Canada’s worst wildfires season
In British Columbia, evacuation orders grew from covering 4,000 homes on Friday afternoon to about 15,000 in the space of an hour. Another 20,000 homes are under alert.

Premier of the province, David Eby, said that evening that the situation had “evolved rapidly” and officials were braced for “an extremely challenging situation in the days ahead”.

“This year, we’re facing the worst #BCWildfire season ever,” Mr Eby wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Given these fast-moving conditions, we are declaring a provincial state of emergency.”

The premier said this would ensure “that we’re in a position to rapidly access any tools we need to support communities”.

He said that more and more people were being evacuated, warning that “emergency orders could include travel restrictions to specific areas if people do not respect our calls to avoid non-essential travel”.