'Thank you so much': NWT and B.C. fire evacuees express gratitude for hospitality of Calgarians
Evacuees from British Columbia and the Northwest Territories say they’ve been overwhelmed with support from Calgarians as they flee their homes for safety due to the dangers of raging wildfires.
“From the bottom of my heart to all the first responders, thank you so much,” said Rita Dryneck, who arrived at the Westin Airport Calgary hotel just 24 hours ago from Yellowknife.
“I know a lot of these volunteers are working overtime and it’s just been so hard going through this. I can barely sleep and I worry about my kids and my husband.”
Dryneck has lived in Yellowknife for more than 30 years. She’s one of hundreds of evacuees receiving assistance from the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA).
Her husband made the difficult decision to stay behind in Yellowknife, but her two sons living in Hay River had no choice but to be transported via medivac to Grand Prairie.
“My son is 31-year-old and I’ve never heard him cry,” Dryneck said.
“He told me people were panicking on the highway, getting trapped by the fires and there were a lot of accidents. He was able to turn around and go straight back to the airport for help. It’s just been so scary. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
'VERY HECTIC' SITUATION
Other Yellowknife evacuees like Joseph Bannon also describe the situation as ‘very hectic’ following the ban on Canadian news from Facebook parent company ‘Meta’ in response to Bill C-18.
“There's a lot of things going on Facebook. People are sending updates and it's just trying to figure out what's real and what people are a little more concerned about,” said Bannon.
“I know there’s a lot of efforts in place to make a big fire break so as far as I know the fire hasn't hit Yellowknife yet and I’m talking to friends who are trying to stay positive.”
As of Friday, CEMA had provided 495 hotel rooms for evacuees, while the Calgary Hotel Association has also set aside about 2,500 rooms, paid for by the city, for wildfire evacuees.
Evacuees are asked to register through the N.W.T. government website, or when they arrive at an evacuee reception centre in Alberta.
KELOWNA AIRPORT GROUNDS FLIGHTS
The Kelowna International Airport says flights will remain grounded Saturday to allow for firefighting aircraft to assist with wildfires in the area.
“YLW’s priority is the safety of the Okanagan community and supporting firefighting efforts taking place,” the airport said in a statement.
Some cancellations at the Penticton airport were also affected by the B.C. state of emergency,
WestJet announced Saturday morning that it has cancelled all of its flights to and from Kelowna for the day.
To aid evacuation efforts, WestJet added extra recovery flights scheduled for Saturday between Penticton and Calgary.
The Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival cancelled the rest of the fest after a Friday night performance that some on social media said featured 'raining ash' from nearby wildfires.