Thursday, 30 May 2024
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CanadaNatural Disaster

Wildfires Burn Thousands of Acres in Western Canada

  • The provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia (BC) have been the worst affected.
  • At least 4,800 people were forced to evacuate due to a fire in the vicinity of Fort Nelson.
  • Firefighters from other nations deployed as part of the firefighting effort to help Canada contain its flames.

There are more than 130 active wildfires in Canada as of May 15. The provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia (BC) have been the worst affected.

At least 4,800 people, including the Fort Nelson First Nation, were forced to evacuate due to a fire in the vicinity of Fort Nelson, British Columbia. Over 6,600 people have already been evacuated from Fort McMurray due to a 51,000-acre wildfire in Alberta, and the remaining residents are on an evacuation notice.

Wildfires

The fires are similar to the record-breaking ones from the previous year, which destroyed 5% of Canada’s forest, or about 185,000 km2 (71,414 mi2, or 45.7 million acres). Almost the entire nation was impacted by the smoke from these fires, and after crossing the Atlantic, several parts of the US and Europe also experienced smoke pollution. Firefighters from other nations deployed as part of the firefighting effort to help Canada contain its flames.

Known as “holdover fires” or occasionally “zombie fires,” some of the fires this year are rekindled versions of last year’s that blazed deep underground before erupting again when spring arrives.

With the May–July season being the warmest on record in Canada in 80 years, climate change is still a major contributing factor to the wildfires. Early in the year, exceptionally high temperatures combined with abnormally dry circumstances created an ideal environment for the spread of fire in many parts of Canada, especially in the west and north.

Prior to 2023, the Albertan government implemented a number of cuts to different wildfire services. The Rappel Attack Program (RAP), which had been in operation for almost 40 years, was terminated in 2019 after government funding was reduced.

Further budget cuts in 2021 compelled Alberta Wildfire to let go of some permanent employees, and in 2022, a 10% reduction in the length of the wildfire season caused serious issues.

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