Wildfires out of control, thousands of displaced in Canada

TORONTO – Thousands of people in Western Canada displaced from their homes by the fires that threaten their communities: many warnings and evacuation orders in the last few hours. 

In British Columbia, a growing area around the northeastern community of Fort Nelson is being evacuated, with the Parker Lake fire burning nearby and the larger Patry Creek fire raging to the northwest. Changing conditions at two fires in northeast British Columbia even forced the RCMP to move one of its checkpoints out of Fort Nelson.

Both fires are listed by the B. C. Wildfire Service as “wildfires of note”: the Parker Lake fire measures 84 square kilometers and the Patry Creek fire covers an enormous 464 square kilometres.

Rob Fraser, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality based in Fort Nelson, appealed to residents not to attempt to return to their homes, stressing that emergency crews must focus on fighting the fires and not find themselves forced to be on the alert to people trying to return home when it is not yet safe to do so.

As for those working to defend the community from the fire, according to Global News, Structure Protection Branch director Keving Delgarno says crews worked until around midnight, not until dawn, as has been the case lately, because “the behavior of the fire has stabilized and has not been as aggressive”: according to him, the forecast for the region continues to look favorable, which will further help their efforts.

However, the windy unknown remains: fire behavior specialist Ben Boghean states that the Patry Creek fire, about 25 kilometers north of the community, grew significantly at the beginning of this week, fueled by strong winds. Boghean notes that, currently, the fire does not pose a major threat, but that could change quickly as strong winds and drier conditions return.

Meanwhile, in Alberta a 209 square kilometer fire has driven more than 6,600 residents from their homes in southern Fort McMurray: in 2016, a similar fire – which was called “The Beast” – had destroyed much of the oil sands community and its recovery had taken years.

Just north of Cranberry Portage, Manitoba, another out-of-control fire measuring 316 square kilometers forced more than 500 residents of the area to flee their homes.

More fires are raging across Canada, particularly in the west. And we’re just getting started.

In the pic above: columns of smoke in Alberta, in a photo published on Twitter by “Alberta Wildfire” – @AlbertaWildfire