The latest on wildfires and wildfire smoke in Canada
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre said there were 431 fires burning on Thursday in nine provinces and two territories. That was down from 441 Wednesday, with Quebec extinguishing 10 fires since Wednesday morning. The number of out-of-control fires also fell from 256 on Wednesday to 234 on Thursday, including a change in status for more than a dozen fires in Quebec.
More than 43,000 square kilometres have burned in Canada so far this year, making 2023 the second-worst year for wildfires on record. That’s before the hottest months of the year have even begun.
In 2014, more than 46,000 square kilometres burned, the most ever in a single year. At the current pace, that total is expected to be passed this weekend.
Follow updates from across the country below.
Hundreds of wildfires continue to rage across the country, most of them in Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia, triggering new evacuations and preventing other residents from returning home.
In Quebec, Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said Saturday morning that wildfires in the northeast of the province were largely under control, but that the situation in the central and northwestern regions remained challenging, with communities like Chibougamau, Lebel-sur-Quévillon, and Mistissini still at risk.
“We haven’t won the fight yet,” he said in a news conference. Nearly 14,000 people were under evacuation orders in Quebec on Saturday, the minister said, with most of them not expected to be able to return home before Tuesday, when much needed rain is in the forecast.
Mr. Bonnardel said 861 personnel, including Canadian Armed Forces and foreign firefighters, were at work fighting 37 blazes out of the 121 raging across the province’s “intensive zone,” covering most of the inhabited territory.
So far, wildfires have burned more than 700,000 hectares in the zone, which is more than 300 times the average at this time of year for the past decade.
Friday’s national snapshot from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre showed a growing number of out-of-control fires on the West Coast, as hot, dry weather fed flames and led to a fresh round of evacuation orders and alerts.
With 2,414 fires recorded and 4.5 million hectares burned this year as of Friday evening, according to the centre, this has been the most active start to a wildfire season on record.
In western Alberta, the town of Edson was under an evacuation order late Friday for the second time this spring.
Officials said a fire burning near the community of about 8,400 people jumped fire guards and moved closer to populated areas. They warned that there could be impacts to roads and highways if the fire crossed the guards and blocked evacuation routes.
“Because that fire is so out of control, some of the forestry crews have had to back off,” said Luc Mercier, chief administrative officer for Yellowhead County, in a video statement on one of the town’s Facebook pages. “They can’t fight that fire.”
Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said the weekend would be critical for the town. “We have a lot of warm temperatures in the forecast and it’s windy here right now,” he said. In early May, Edson was evacuated for three days due to another wildfire.
An unprecedented start to the wildfire season led Alberta to bring in a provincewide state of emergency on May 6. At one point, about 29,000 people were out of their homes in various communities.
The state of emergency was lifted last week.
On Friday afternoon, before the evacuation order was issued for Edson and the surrounding area, about 3,500 Albertans remained out of their homes. There were 74 active wildfires in the province Saturday, according to the Alberta Wildfire Status Dashboard, including 25 deemed out of control.
– Frédérik-Xavier Duhamel, with reports from The Canadian Press
Wildfire updates in Quebec
The next 48 hours will be crucial in Quebec’s wildfire fight in northern and western parts of the province, with rain forecast for Monday but warmer, humid temperatures expected until then.
Public Security Minister François Bonnardel says authorities are concerned for Normétal, located 720 kilometres northwest of Montreal in the Abitibi region, where fires are burning nearby.
Bonnardel says there are more than 130 fires burning in the province and teams have prioritized 37 of them, with 861 firefighters on the ground and 20 water bombers part of the fight.
Wildfire updates in Nova Scotia
Police say a woman in central Nova Scotia has been fined nearly $29,000 for having an unsupervised outdoor fire in the midst of a provincewide fire ban.
RCMP Cpl. Chris Marshall says officers responded to reports of an open fire on private property on Friday afternoon in the community of Lantz, about 50 kilometres north of Halifax.
Marshall says they found an unsupervised fire burning in a firepit and used a hose to douse the flames, as the largest wildfire in Nova Scotia’s history continues to burn out of control. About 130 firefighters are working to knock down the 234-square-kilometre blaze, which began on May 27 near Barrington Lake in Shelburne County.
Wildfire updates in B.C.
Shifting winds, cooling temperatures and intermittent rain showers are helping crews today battling a wildfire that forced the evacuation of the northeast British Columbia town of Tumbler Ridge.
Forrest Tower, a BC Wildfire information officer, says winds that were threatening to push the wildfire west towards the community Friday did not materialize and are now slowly moving the blaze east and south away from town.
The estimated 2,400 residents of Tumbler Ridge were ordered to evacuate earlier this week as the intense, out-of-control blaze approached within five kilometres of the community.
Tower, who is in Tumbler Ridge today, says firefighting crews are feeling a greater sense of calm compared to 24 hours ago when preparations were being made for which structures to protect.
But he says fire conditions can change at a moment’s notice and it’s still too early to consider lifting the evacuation order.
There were 78 active wildfires in the province, including 24 deemed out of control according to the online provincial emergency map. Evacuation orders due to wildfires remained in place for the Lytton First Nation, the Village of Lytton, the Peace River Regional District, along with the District of Tumbler Ridge.
Wildfire updates in Alberta
Extreme fire behaviour is anticipated for a wildfire that prompted the evacuation of the town of Edson early Friday morning, officials in Alberta said as local leaders urged anyone who stayed behind to get out immediately.
Luc Mercier, the chief operating officer of Yellowhead County, said in a video update Saturday with other municipal officials that a finger of the massive blaze was just 1.5 kilometres south of Edson’s boundary.
A status update from the province issued Saturday morning said sustained winds, high temperatures and dry fuels are making firefighting “extremely dangerous” and that crews will only be working in areas that are safe.
A cold front is forecast to move into the area this evening, but the provincial update said it’s anticipated to bring gusty, sustained winds from the west which will further challenge firefighters.