In Canada, thousands of people evacuated due to forest fires in the West

Thousands of people had to be evacuated in Western Canada, where hundreds of forest fires were raging, on Sunday May 13, while the fire season which started early promises to be difficult, according to federal authorities

In Canada, thousands of people evacuated due to forest fires in the West

Thousands of people had to be evacuated in Western Canada, where hundreds of forest fires were raging, on Sunday May 13, while the fire season which started early promises to be difficult, according to federal authorities.

“The fires are really all around us, from the west to the northeast,” the mayor of Fort Nelson, Rob Fraser, deplores with fear to Agence France-Presse (AFP), urging the hundred or so residents remained behind to leave this town in northeastern British Columbia. Faced with this out-of-control blaze, nearly 3,500 people had to be moved 400 kilometers further south on Friday evening.

After almost doubling in size during the day on Sunday, the fire which now extends over more than 4,000 hectares could affect homes as early as Monday morning, estimates the provincial fire service (BCWS).

“The next forty-eight hours will be challenging due to forecasted westerly winds and extremely dry and volatile fuels in the area,” said Ben Boghean of BCWS, adding that the 70 firefighters responding to this fire could also be in danger . According to the expert, the “multiple years of drought”, which have affected the region and “the little snow received this winter”, are the reason behind this uncontrolled advance.

“Very high” risks for air quality

In the neighboring province of Alberta, 44 fires broke out, including one in particular located about fifteen kilometers from Fort McMurray, forcing residents to prepare for a possible evacuation. This city in the northwest of the province, located in the heart of the boreal forest and known for the exploitation of its tar sands, had already been ravaged in May 2016, forcing the 90,000 inhabitants to hastily leave the region.

This fire remains the biggest disaster in Canadian history with more than 2,500 buildings destroyed and a cost of nearly 10 billion Canadian dollars (6.8 billion euros).

Other evacuation orders were also issued this weekend for small towns in Alberta and Manitoba, while strong winds pushed smoke across the west of the country, suffocating several large cities. Air quality poses “very high” risks there, according to the federal government.

In an update released Wednesday, Ottawa predicted that “higher than normal temperatures” in the coming months, combined with “drought conditions,” would “exacerbate the risk and intensity of forest fires.”

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.