Canada could potentially see an increase in wildfires for the rest of the year, from eastern Alberta to central Ontario, government experts said Thursday.
Some existing large fires could continue to burn well into September or possibly late fall, or even into winter.
Forecast maps from Natural Resources Canada and shared with reporters on Thursday show Manitoba will likely see the most intense fire activity in September, Saskatchewan, eastern Alberta and western Ontario also likely to experience “above average” fire activity.
“Wildfires have always happened in Canada, but what is new is their frequency and intensity. The science is clear. The root cause of this is climate change,” Jonathan Wilkinson, federal minister of energy and natural resources, said Thursday.
Wilkinson also announced new funding for British Columbia and the Northwest Territories to help fight wildfires.
“Over the past few days, we have finalized agreements with British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, whereby British Columbia will receive $32 million and over $28 million will flow to the Northwest Territories. West over the next five years. This federal funding will be supplemented by provincial and territorial contributions,” he said.
The dry weather could also mean new fires could break out.
According to data from Natural Resources Canada, the country has seen a total of 6,174 fires as of September 6, with over a thousand currently. With 284 evacuation orders issued this year, 232,209 people have been evacuated.
Large fires in Nunavut, northwestern British Columbia and northern Alberta may continue to burn.
Experts said while not a huge jump from the 10-year or 25-year average, this year’s fires were more intense and burned over a much larger area. than previous years, making it the worst wildfire season Canada has ever seen. seen again.
Across Canada, 16.5 million hectares have burned in forest fires.
This is four times larger than the total area of Switzerland.
In total, the 20-year average amounts to just over two million hectares nationwide. This year, two fires have exceeded one million hectares each, with a possibility of even more by the end of the month.
Four provinces and one territory recorded records for the area burned by forest fires, with 5.3 million hectares in Quebec, 3.6 million hectares in the Northwest Territories, 2.3 million hectares in Alberta, 1.9 million hectares in British Columbia and 25,000 hectares in Nova Scotia.
Wilkinson said Natural Resources Canada would make $256 million over five years available to provinces and territories to acquire life-saving critical firefighting equipment and personnel.
“To date, Alberta. British Columbia. New Scotland. Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have access to this fund this year, and we expect all jurisdictions to participate next year.
Civil Protection Minister Harjit Sajjan said: “Although there are positive signs that the major wildfires are under control, hot and dry conditions continue to pose a risk in many areas. Even once the fires are considered under control, managing their aftermath is not an easy task. .”
Wildfires have also worsened greenhouse gas emissions, with around 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted so far this year.
But the cost of fighting wildfires has also been immense. Natural Resources Canada said the biggest cost is for fire suppression efforts, which experts say will be “significant” this year.
British Columbia, Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan are the only jurisdictions that have shared fire suppression costs so far in the year.
The cost of fire suppression in these four jurisdictions is approximately $1.4 billion.
Government officials said this does not take into account insured property losses, which can amount to between $700 million and $1.5 billion, or costs a*sociated with economic disruption, evacuations and repatriation, loss of human health and disruption of the forest economy.
Wilkinson and Sajjan used the press conference to slam Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, saying the reality of climate change cannot be ignored.
“Since Mr. Poilievre became leader of the Conservative Party, the words ‘climate change’ have barely left his lips,” Wilkinson said. Sajjan said, “Canadians can’t afford to look the other way, but Pierre Poilievre can. Because he wants to fan the flames of division and distract with rhetoric and dog whistle language. Because the leader of the Conservative Party has no plan to fight climate change.”
Sajjan added that the army also plays a crucial role. The Canadian Armed Forces participate in firefighting activities, planning and coordination of airlift: personnel, equipment, aircraft, planning and logistics capacity.
This year, firefighting efforts have been monumental, with 4,714 firefighters engaged in extinguishing the blazes. The Canadian Interagency Wildfire Center (CIFFC) coordinated the movement of over 17,000 pieces of equipment.
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