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'Incredibly difficult times': PM Justin Trudeau visits N.W.T. wildfire evacuees at reception centre in Edmonton

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to wildfire evacuees from the Northwest Territories being hosted at the Edmonton Expo Centre on Friday.

The event was closed to media, but the Prime Minister gave a brief statement to reporters after the visit.

"I was speaking with a number of the evacuees, that sense of community is incredibly strong even as people are worried about their homes and their community in Yellowknife," he said.

Trudeau said it's been an unprecedented summer for fire and flooding, and thanked Canadians for opening their doors and their hearts to evacuees.

"All through it we've seen Canadians step up. Obviously first responders, firefighters, police, volunteers, Red Cross has been incredible in supporting and responding to people, but so have neighbours being there for neighbours, people looking out for each other, supporting each other through incredibly difficult times."

While he was in Edmonton to support evacuees from N.W.T., Trudeau also took a moment to recognize the situation in Kelowna where evacuation orders are also in place due to wildfire.

"It's moving very fast. It's important that people listen to all the best recommendations of the public safety and public health authorities on how to keep, keep safe," he said.

"The federal government is closely co-ordinating with, with the province of B.C. and we will be there to add to whatever resources B.C. has."

The evacuation reception centre in Edmonton opened at noon on Friday. It is providing immediate needs – like lodging, food, clothing, health care and pet care – to those who need it, mainly residents of Yellowknife, N.W.T.

As of 4 p.m. on Friday, the city said 974 residents and 60 pets had been registered, and there were long lines of people still waiting to register.

The City of Edmonton has also committed to sending firefighters and equipment from Edmonton Fire Rescue Services to Yellowknife to support firefighting efforts.

Yellowknife, at a population of 22,000, is the territory's capital and represents about 40 per cent of its population. 

Residents of the city and its nearby communities were told on Wednesday to leave as quickly as they could. Everyone was supposed to be out by noon on Friday.

As of Friday morning, the military was helping fly out any people – such as long-term care residents – who were still in Yellowknife.

There were 236 active fires in the territory. The closest flames to Yellowknife were about 16 kilometres away.

About 150 Canadian Armed Forces members, including 120 soldiers and 30 aviators, along with Hercules, Globemaster and Polaris aircraft, were stationed there.

Evacuees from Yellowknife, as well as the Fort Smith region near the Alberta boundary, have received help from a number of Alberta cities, including Calgary, Red Deer, Leduc and St. Albert

Trudeau's deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, was scheduled to meet with officials at a different wildfire emergency response centre in Alberta's Peace Country region on Friday, as well. Top Stories

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