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'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.”

Dryneck's 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.


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.


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.

James Wood-Keller was travelling back to Calgary from Penticton Saturday. He says he has friends who are volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross to help with the current wildfire situation.

“It’s really smoky there in Penticton during the day and I’m concerned because I do have family out there visiting so I’m worried about them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Vikram Ogale arrived in Calgary from Hamilton, Ont. Saturday morning.

He is attending the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) in Kelowna for the upcoming semester in just a couple of weeks and is uncertain if there could be delays to his education.

“From what I’ve heard the UBCO campus itself is pretty well protected and I suppose there would only be delays if the entire city of Kelowna got evacuated so the worst-case scenario would be just staying in Calgary and flying back,” he said.

“I’m really shocked though, it’s just a terrible thing with what’s happening in Maui, Yellowknife and now Kelowna and its like history is repeating itself again and again and again,” he said.


As thousands of wildfire evacuees descend on Calgary, some local organizations are lending a helping hand and offering some free experiences to those looking to de-stress.

Six YMCA Calgary centres are offering their showering and recreation services free of charge to northern evacuees. GoodLife Fitness is also letting evacuees shower and change in its change rooms at 13 Calgary locations and one location in Red Deer.

Heritage Park is also allowing those displaced from wildfires the opportunity to access the Calgary attraction for free.


The City of Calgary is urging citizens not to bring donations to the evacuation centres, but instead to donate through other agencies.

The Canadian Red Cross has launched a fire appeal online where Albertans can donate directly with all proceeds going to immediate and ongoing fire relief.

The United Way NWT is also accepting donations along with the Yellowknife Community Foundation, and the Yellowknife Women’s Society.

Parachutes For Pets, a non-profit pet agency in Calgary is accepting donations to support displaced animals along with other organizations like Veterinarians Without Borders. Top Stories

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