Forest fires in Canada continue to break records. More than 5.2 million hectares have already been devastated by the flames in the North American country and some 32,000 people continue under evacuation orders. Federal authorities report 460 active fires; 235 burning out of control. This Monday, Bill Blair, federal minister of Public Safety pointed out: “Unfortunately, we can now talk about the worst forest fire season of the 21st century in Canada”. If the rains and the change in the direction of the winds have improved the outlook in Nova Scotia and some points in Quebec, and with it an improvement in air quality that has even affected parts of the United States, the increase in thermometers in Alberta and British Columbia has fostered new embers.
Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, was in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec on Wednesday, where he met with military personnel and civilians who have provided support to those affected by the fire. “The challenges have been great,” he said, “but Canadians always help each other through tough times”, he added. Trudeau stressed that his government is preparing new contingency plans for the summer, the season where the presence of fire is statistically more frequent.
This fire is a monster
Some fires are disturbing due to their enormous extension. That of Donnie Creek, located in the northeast of British Columbia, already exceeds 466,000 hectares; nearly double the area of the Vancouver metropolitan area. The flames that threaten Edson (in central Alberta) have destroyed some 204,000 hectares. Kevin Zahara, mayor of this community, declared over the weekend: “This fire is a monster”. In Quebec, the fire that affects the territory of Jamésie (in the northern region of the province), totals more than 133,000 hectares. This fire threatens the Nordic Kraft pulp mill, one of the economic engines of the area. In addition to the forestry industry, other sectors in Canada, such as tourism and agriculture, are being affected by the wave of fires.
Some 5,000 Canadian firefighters are battling the flames. Additionally, about 1,100 members of foreign bodies (United States, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and France) have joined the tasks. Last Tuesday, 100 Chileans and 42 Costa Ricans arrived in the province of Alberta. In the next few hours, the arrival of 140 Portuguese and 97 Spaniards at the Jean Lesage airport in Quebec is expected. Likewise, an additional hundred American firefighters will join the extinction work in the French-speaking province.
Climate change has contributed to the increase
University researchers and experts from the Canadian Ministry of Environment stress that climate change has contributed to the increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires. In this regard, Trudeau said last Wednesday: “We need to be better prepared for the coming years, for the coming decades”. The Canadian premier said that it is necessary to “invest in infrastructure, preparation and prevention to minimize the impact” of these phenomena. The Canadian economy is already paying the consequences of the climate crisis.
A study published in November by the parliamentary director of the federal budget indicated that the effects of climate change caused a 0.8% decrease in Gross Domestic Product in 2021. And accordingtohispredictions, itcouldreach 2.4% in 2050.