Canada could see a “record” level of land burnt amid an “unprecedented” wildfire season this year, government officials are warning.
Nine provinces and territories are battling blazes that have forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 people across the country since early May, officials said in an update Monday.
New modelling released June 5 shows that the risks of wildfires are set to increase this month and remain “unusually high” throughout the summer in Canada, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said.
“Every province and territory will need to be on high alert throughout this wildfire season,” he told reporters, saying that additional firefighting resources will be required moving forward.
“While this is not yet Canada’s most severe fire season, if this trajectory continues, it very well could be.”
Since the start of the year, 2,214 wildfires have already burned 3.3 million hectares of land – which is “10 times” the normal average for the season, Wilkinson said.
As of June 4, more than 400 active fires were burning across the country, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported.
Ottawa is giving federal assistance to at least three provinces: Alberta, Nova Scotia and Quebec.
The Canadian military as well as hundreds of international firefighters are on the ground giving a much-needed helping hand to local emergency teams.
Despite the “very serious projections,” Canada is expected to have enough resources to cover the summer months, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
“If things get worse, we … are developing contingency plans and we will, of course, make sure that we are there, whether it’s leaning more on international supports, whether it’s steading up other resources, we will be there to ensure that all Canadians are protected right through this summer,” he said.
Currently, there are more than 950 international firefighters and related management and support personnel in Canada from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Crews from Costa Rica and France will join soon, officials said.
There were more than 150 fires burning in Quebec on Sunday, which forced thousands of people from their homes in the northwestern part of the province over the weekend.
In Nova Scotia, the largest wildfire in the province’s history continued to burn out of control in Shelburne County, while firefighters managed to contain a blaze near Halifax that damaged or destroyed at least 150 suburban residences.
Alberta recently ended a provincewide state of emergency it implemented to deal with unprecedented wildfires in that province, even as officials warned the situation remained serious.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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