After a year 2023 marked by forest fires of an unprecedented scale in Canada, the authorities are already announcing “preparing for the worst” for the summer of 2024. Several major fires have broken out in the west of the country in recent days, marking the start of a very early season in a region affected by a severe drought.

In the province of British Columbia, which borders the Pacific coast, firefighters are hard at work, as in the central Cariboo region, where a human-caused fire quickly grew during the weekend. end and is currently considered “out of control.” This Burgess Creek fire, which has already devoured more than 1,600 hectares of vegetation “is very revealing of the conditions we are currently experiencing”, explained Tuesday, April 23, to Agence France-Presse, Madison Dahl, of the fire services of the province, evoking an early season. “We are facing an incredible drought,” she adds.

The fire does not immediately threaten any infrastructure, but an alert has been issued: residents in the area should be ready to evacuate. In total, more than 110 fires are active in this province, some of which started last year but have never been extinguished.

Evacuation alert

In the neighboring province of Alberta, 66 fires are also active, of which “36 are from the 2023 season,” explains Melissa Story, of the Alberta Forest Fire Management Branch.

In addition, several fires were recorded in the Fort McMurray region, in the northwest of the province, even triggering an evacuation alert. This city, located in the middle of the boreal forest and known for the exploitation of its tar sands, was ravaged in May 2016. The 90,000 inhabitants had to hastily leave the region.

This fire remains the largest disaster in Canadian history with more than 2,500 buildings destroyed and a cost of nearly 10 billion Canadian dollars (6.8 billion euros at current rates). According to the Canadian government, “extreme” and “very concerning” drought conditions persist in many parts of western Canada.

After a winter marked by a lack of snow, the authorities admitted on April 10 to fearing another “catastrophic” summer. In 2023, Canada experienced the worst fire season in its history. The fires, which affected the country from east to west, burned more than 15 million hectares, claimed the lives of eight firefighters and prompted authorities to evacuate 230,000 people.