As the sun set, bathing Yellowknife in an eerie, inferno-like glow, Ndlovu’s father clutched the steering wheel of their family vehicle, his knuckles whitening. Their sights veiled by an ominous smokescreen, the highway had transformed into a treacherous pathway filled with terrified drivers navigating with a desperate courage.

Naledi Ndlovu, a recent high school graduate, conveyed her family’s frantic escape from the encircled city. Their journey, made even more perilous by the encroaching smoke and fire that peppered the boundaries of Highway 3, was a spectacle of raw fear. With wildlife scurrying alongside the road, bears and other creatures too overwhelmed to escape laid dead on the shoulder, victims of the blazing inferno rapidly consuming their home.

As fear and anxiety inflamed drivers’ emotions, the family’s Toyota Tundra was violently rear-ended— a reminder that they weren’t the only ones rushing towards a fleeting chance of safety. To further compound their predicament, their tire exploded, and inspection revealed all their tires had deformed under the searing heat radiating from the road.

Currently, the Northwest Territories are besieged by 236 raging fires, destructively dancing across the northern landscape. Of these, the one dubbed ZF015 looms ominously near Yellowknife, forging a ring of relentless flames around it, according to Mike Westwick, the area’s information officer. This relentless blaze has forcibly displaced thousands from their homes, resulting in a diaspora of evacuees seeking refuge wherever they can within Alberta’s borders.

Res­i­dents of Hay River, Enterprise, Fort Smith, K’atlodeeche First Nation, and more have been ordered to evacuate, echoing the fate of those in Yellowknife. Garth Carman, a resident of Hay River, recounted loading his vehicle with their household felines and those of their displaced neighbors, when a wave of flames roared aggressively over the highway, with the trees around them spontaneously combusting under the intense heat.

The enormity of the wildfires burning across Canada is staggering. To date, fires have charred over two million hectares (8,200 square miles) of previously untouched wilderness, defining this as the worst year in Canada’s wildfire history. Currently, over a thousand wildfires rage across the nation, with 5,767 fires chronicled this season alone. Collectively, they’ve swallowed 14 million hectares—an expanse equivocal to Alabama in the US, or the entire size of Greece.

For the Ndlovu family, their road to safety has many more miles to traverse. Their journey will see them through seven more arduous hours of travel south to Calgary, where they hope to outrun the relentless arm of the wildfires. However, the scars of their harrowing escape from their city, now lost in the flames, will undoubtedly linger long after the fires are subdued.