Canada is in the midst of its most devastating wildfire season of the 21st century, with more than 47,000 square kilometres of land burned so far this year, according to the federal government.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair announced the grim milestone on Monday, saying that 431 wildfires were currently burning across the country. He said that climate change was a major factor behind the unprecedented scale and intensity of the fires.
“One of those continues to threaten the Alberta community of Edson, where 8,400 residents remain under an evacuation order issued Friday,” The Canadian Press reported. Edson is about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton and has been surrounded by flames for days.
Hundreds of people in British Columbia have also been forced from their homes or are under an evacuation alert as the Donnie Creek blaze continues to rage, having grown to be the second largest ever recorded wildfire in the province. The fire has consumed more than 4,660 square kilometres of land and is only 21 percent contained.
A massive fire in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, remains out of control, although officials say the 235-square-kilometre Barrington Lake wildfire is no longer growing. Teams with the province’s Department of Natural Resources will be flying over the fire in southwest Nova Scotia this week and will use infrared scanners to detect areas where firefighters should be dispatched.
The federal government has deployed about 5,000 firefighters from various countries to help battle the flames, and hundreds more are expected to arrive from Chile, Costa Rica, Spain and Portugal in the coming days.
Wildfires are mainly caused by lightning, but human activities such as smoking, arson, and fireworks also contribute to igniting them. The flames of wildfires have the capability to reach 50 meters high and can change the weather patterns of a given area.
Wildfires have negative impacts on the environment, such as emitting greenhouse gases, destroying habitats, and increasing soil erosion. “Wildfires emit billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which causes harm to climate and living organisms,” ClearIAS wrote.
“Climate change is undoubtedly the biggest trigger of extreme lightning storms,” Earth.Org said. “Warmer and longer summers heat up the land surface. This, coupled with an increase in carbon emissions, causes stronger updrafts that are more likely to produce more powerful and frequent lightning.”
Experts warn that wildfires will become more frequent and severe in the future as global temperatures rise and droughts intensify. They urge governments and individuals to take action to prevent and mitigate wildfires, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing forests sustainably, and following fire safety rules.
– Canada is experiencing its ‘worst wildfire season of the 21st century’: Blair, The Canadian Press, June 13, 2023
– Various Causes and Effects of Wildfires | Earth Eclipse, Earth Eclipse, June 13, 2023
– What Causes Wildfires? | Earth.Org, Earth.Org, April 13, 2023
– Forest Fires: Causes, Types and Effects – ClearIAS, ClearIAS, June 12, 2023