The Canadian Armed Forces flew out 79 long-term care residents from Yellowknife Thursday.

The long-term care residents were flown to Edmonton, National Defence Minister Bill Blair said Friday (Aug. 18) during a federal update on the wildfire situation in the Northwest Territories. He said the aircraft was fit for the purpose, with the ability to move people who may be in stretchers or wheelchairs.

Blair said the government would continue helping the most vulnerable today and “as long as it takes.”

“There’s a long road ahead, but I want to assure you we will stand by you in your time of need.”

Asked why evacuations were not done earlier, Blair said the federal government and military are working very closely with local officials and medical officials and had to make sure everyone had the right equipment and personnel.

It was a “very methodical, staged and careful evacuation.”

Blair added it’s an important point that the highway leading south from Yellowknife remains open.

An additional flight of 55 hospital and long-term care patients was set to arrive in Vancouver Friday.

READ MORE: NWT sending 55 hospital patients, care home residents to B.C.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said patients will be triaged and assessed at Vancouver International Airport and then transferred to other locations.

He added the patients are a mix, with 22 people who are assessed for long-term care but in hospital and 33 who are hospital patients, ranging from pediatric care to pre- and post-surgical.

Staff at the local Vancouver Coastal, Fraser and Providence health authorities are preparing and have already been through patients charts to assign care. Most long-term care patients will be transferred to Mount Saint Joseph Hospital in Vancouver.

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