Canada risks another 'catastrophic' wildfire season

April 11, 2024 7:10 am

[Source: Reuters]

Canada risks another “catastrophic” wildfire season, the federal government said.

As it forecasted higher-than-normal spring and summer temperatures across much of the country, boosted by El Nino weather conditions.

Last year Canada endured its worst-ever fire season, with more than 6,600 blazes burning 15 million hectares, an area roughly seven times the annual average. Eight firefighters died and 230,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

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This winter the country experienced warmer-than-normal temperatures and widespread drought, setting the stage for another punishing summer.

“The temperature trends are very concerning. With the heat and dryness across the country we can expect that the wildfire season will start sooner and end later and potentially be more explosive,” Harjit Sajjan, the minister for emergency preparedness, told a press conference.

Federal ministers warned climate change was contributing to more extreme weather events, including wildfires, drought and heat waves.

“Wildfires have always occurred across Canada, what’s new is their frequency and their intensity,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, the minister for energy and natural resources. “The science is clear. The root cause of this is climate change.”

Ottawa is providing C$256 million ($187.15 million) over five years, a sum matched by the country’s provinces and territories, to fund new equipment and has also committed to training an extra 1,000 community-based wildfire firefighters.

Last year Canada deployed 5,500 international firefighters from countries including South Africa and Spain and 2,135 armed forces members to help tackle the blazes.

Severe weather, including wildfires, caused over C$3.1 billion in insured damages in 2023, according to a government analysis.