Western Canadian Provinces Already Dealing With Onset of Out-of-Control Wildfires

Firefighters in western Canada are in the process of battling the first major wildfires of 2024, Reuters reported (5-14-24).

Typically, the wildfire season starts in April when the snow melts and runs through September or October when cooler temperatures and increased precipitation helps dampen fire activity. However, unseasonably warm temperatures and an ongoing drought have left forests tinder-dry. Adding to the issues for 2024 are the so-called “zombie fires” that ignited last summer and smoldered through the winter.

Currently, an out-of-control blaze is sweeping towards the remote town of Fort Nelson in northeastern BC, where more than 3,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate. In northern Alberta, around 70,000 people in the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray—which was devastated by wildfire in 2016—are on evacuation alert. Overall, there are nearly 120 wildfires currently burning across Canada, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, mostly in BC and Alberta.

To help extinguish the wildfires, Alberta is using night vision-equipped helicopters, introduced last year, to help tackle blazes, Reuters said. In April, the province said it would hire an extra 100 firefighters, roughly a 10% increase from 2023. To date, there have been 318 fires in Alberta and 17,000 hectares burned, versus 454 fires and 461,000 hectares burned at the same time last year.

In BC, there have been 158 fires that started in 2024, and 142,000 hectares have burned. BC has nearly 300 firefighters and 56 aircraft currently deployed. Last year, 2.8 million hectares burned in the province over the course of the season.

2023 was Canada’s worst ever wildfire season when 18.5 million hectares burned, and blazes raged simultaneously in the east and west of the country.

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