May 7, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Over 100 wildfires in western Canada displace 29,000 people

A helicopter flies over forest fire area close to a police roadblock outside the town of Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada on May 7, 2023.

A helicopter flies over a forest fire area close to a police roadblock outside the town of Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada on Sunday. Photo: Walter Tychnowicz/AFP via Getty Images

Wildfires in western Canada have forced some 29,000 people to evacuate their homes as officials warned Sunday that conditions remained volatile.

Threat level: Officials in Alberta declared a provincewide state of emergency as more than 100 fires burned in the province over the weekend.

  • Although daytime temperatures in the region dropped from highs of 86°F last week to around 66°F Sunday, computer models were showing another major heat wave for the end of this coming week following a temporary cooldown.

State of play: Firefighters in Alberta were tackling 106 wildfires as of late Sunday, according to the latest provincial government data.

  • "In some cases, ongoing smoke and fire conditions prevent us from fully assessing property loss and until we can do that, we are limited in the details we can provide," said Colin Blair, executive director of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency at a news conference on Sunday.
  • "But our first priority is protecting lives and dealing with the emergency response."
  • Blair thanked residents for following evacuation orders. "This is a very significant life event to be taken out of your home as a result of a wildfire," he added.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Wildfire Service tweeted that firefighters were responding to "multiple incidents" in northeastern British Columbia over the weekend.

  • Evacuation orders remained in effect for scores of British Columbia residences near the provincial border with Alberta on Sunday.

Between the lines: Multiple studies show human-caused climate change is a key driver behind increased wildfire risk and that heat waves are more likely to occur, be more intense and last longer due to this.

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