Increased amount and intensity of wildfires pressures Canada

July 24th, 2015 by admin

Thousands of families in Canada have been evacuated from their homes due to poor air quality and the significant risk of fire damage originating from the unusually devastating start to the wildfire season. Several have already been reported in the boreal forests of Canada.

Many are being monitored by aircraft and satellite imagery that displays about half of British Columbia covered with white smoke. The Saskatchewan fires are much more dangerous — combining to grow larger and stronger while fire crews and aircrafts plunge through their thick clouds, which have forced more than 10,000 people out of their homes. Overall, more than 10,000 square miles have burned in Canada. 

"The situation is Canada is extreme right now, specifically in Western Canada," says the Canadian Forest Service's research scientist, Kerry Anderson. "Western Canada has seen about three times the area that's normally burned for this time of year."

The fires have stretched firefighting resources to their breaking point.

"Pretty much all of the resources in Canada are tapped out," Anderson says. "They're all on the fire line, and now we're bringing in resources internationally, from Mexico, Australia, New Zealand."

The Forest Service has recently requested additional help from France, South Africa and the United States. The Canadian government has also recruited its own armed forces to assist, training soldiers on fire suppression and deploying them to the fire line.

Some weather and climate scientists are attributing the increase in fire activity to the El Niño weather pattern, which caused a dry winter and a hot spring. Professor of wild land fire at the University of Alberta, Mike Flanagan says,"Our area burned has doubled since the early 1970s, using a running average of 10 years," which is despite the improvements made in firefighting technology and resources. This year isn't merely a one-time occurrence because of El Niño, but part of a larger trend driven by human-made climate change.

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