YELLOWKNIFE, Northwest Territories (AP) -- Air evacuations were to begin Thursday to move residents in the capital of Canada's Northwest Territories out of the path of wildfires that neared the city of 20,000 people.
People in the four areas of Yellowknife at highest risk should leave as soon as possible and residents in other areas have until noon Friday to leave, the Northwest Territories government said. Only those who don't have the option of leaving by road should register for the flights out, officials added. People who are immunocompromised or have a condition that puts them at higher risk were encouraged to sign up.
"I want to be clear that the city is not in immediate danger and there's a safe window for residents to leave the city by road and by air," Shane Thompson, a government minister for the Territories, told a news conference.
The fire was burning about 17 kilometers (10 miles) outside the city. The evacuation order issued Wednesday night applies to the city of Yellowknife and the neighboring First Nations communities of Ndilo and Dettah.
"Without rain, it is possible it will reach the city outskirts by the weekend," Thompson said.
If smoke limits visibility, those leaving Yellowknife by highway will be escorted through the active fire zone.
More than 200 wildfires have already burned a widespread area of the Northwest Territories. There were 1,067 active wildfires burning across Canada as of Wednesday.
Eight communities totaling nearly 6,800 people, or 15% of the Northwest Territories' population, have already evacuated, Mike Westwick, the region's fire information officer, said earlier in the day.
Many highways have been closed and the territory has had what officials called the largest airlift in its history. Canadian Forces personnel are helping firefighters and have flown evacuees out on Hercules aircraft.
Canada has seen a record number of wildfires this year. More than 21,000 square kilometers (8,108 miles) have burned.