Drought, wind and high temperatures: the "unprecedented" wave of fires puts Canada in check | International

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Forest fire in New Brunswick, Canada.HANDOUT (AFP)

The wave of forest fires continues to wreak havoc in Canada. Drought, high temperatures and strong winds fuel the path of the flames. Quebec has joined the list of affected provinces in recent days. At a press conference this Monday in Ottawa, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described this wave as "unprecedented" for these months of the year. So far in 2023, more than 3.3 million hectares have burned in the country. Trudeau also pointed out that, according to projections, the scenario could worsen "throughout the summer", for which reason his government is preparing various contingency plans.

The province of Quebec currently has 154 active fires. It already adds 420 in 2023, while the average of the last 10 years in the same period has been 199. The flames have spread especially in the regions of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, North Coast, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and North from Quebec. More than 11,000 people have been evacuated, mostly residents of indigenous communities and small towns.

Aircraft and personnel from the Society for the Protection of Forests against Fire fight the flames. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces support various tasks, just as they have done in Alberta and Nova Scotia. François Legault, Quebec's prime minister, asked the population to stay away from wooded areas and not light fires in the open. He also warned of the effects caused by the smoke, since it has traveled hundreds of kilometers from the fires. “We have air quality problems even in Montreal,” he noted. The smoke has already crossed the Canadian border, impacting cities in the northern United States and darkening the New York sky on Tuesday.

The Government of Alberta announced this Saturday the end of the state of emergency decreed on May 6. However, this province still has 60 active fires; British Columbia faces 80 and Saskatchewan 23. Although the rains in recent days have improved the situation in Nova Scotia, firefighters are unable to control the Shelburne County fire, the most extensive on record in this Atlantic province.

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Prime Minister Trudeau declared: "We will get through this together and our government will continue to be there with whatever it takes to keep people safe and provide support." More than 3,000 Canadian firefighters are involved in the work. Some 900 from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France have arrived to provide additional aid. Nearly 120,000 people have been evacuated in the provinces affected throughout these first months of 2023 by the flames and smoke.

Experts from the Canadian Ministry of Environment stress that climate change has contributed to the increase in the frequency and intensity of forest fires. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, pointed out in the meeting between Trudeau and several members of his government with journalists this Monday in Ottawa: “We live in a new reality. A reality in which we have to listen carefully to what science tells us”.

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