BRITISH COLUMBIA/OTTAWA: Wildfires spread in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, on Friday while hundreds more fires burned on the opposite side of the country in Quebec, sending smoke billowing across North American cities.
According to Reuters about 2,500 people were ordered to evacuate the village of Tumbler Ridge in northeastern British Columbia on Thursday afternoon. Officials also increased evacuation orders for the Donnie Creek fire, the province’s second-largest recorded in the Peace River region.
This week, temperatures in parts of British Columbia reached more than 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), over 10 degrees higher than the seasonal average. While rain is expected throughout the weekend, lightning strikes are possible, which might cause further fires. In neighboring Alberta, more than 3,500 people are still under evacuation orders, and heat warnings are in effect for much of the province’s central part.
The provincial government said in a fire alert issued late Thursday afternoon that Albertans should remain alert since hot and dry weather is forecast this weekend. Despite efforts in reducing some of the big wildfires, wildfire smoke continued to affect millions of people across eastern Canada and the northeastern United States.
Poor air quality is expected to remain in areas such as Ottawa, Toronto, New York, and Washington until the wind direction changes on Sunday. Canada is having its worst wildfire season. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), there have been 2,372 fires this year, with 4.3 million hectares (10.6 million acres) burned, approximately 15 times the average for each year for the last decade. Quebec has over a third of the 427 fires presently burning across Canada, more than any other province.
Premier François Legault told reporters on Thursday that the situation is improving, but that 13,500 people are still unable to return home. On Monday, rain is forecast in Quebec and neighboring Ontario. Although wildfires are regular in Canada, it is unusual for blazes to be burning in both the east and west at the same time, straining firefighting resources and raising concerns about the rising effects of climate change. Firefighters from South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as hundreds of US firefighters, have come to Canada to help in putting out the blaze.