Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

In British Columbia, there were 373 active wildfires on Monday, with 110 considered out of control, according to an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service.Jesse Winter/The Globe and Mail

Nearly 900 wildfires continued to burn across Canada on Monday, as military assistance arrived in British Columbia and plumes of smoke triggered air quality warnings in more than a dozen U.S. states.

The blazes have doubled in number since mid-June, and several provinces and territories have recently set new record-high temperatures, causing experts to worry that the hot and dry conditions will accelerate the burning.

In B.C., there were 373 active wildfires on Monday, with 110 considered out of control, according to Sarah Budd, an information officer with the BC Wildfire Service. Of those, 23 were considered fires of note, meaning they were highly visible or had the potential to impact people, communities or critical infrastructure.

Ms. Budd said forests in the province’s northern half have sustained repeated lightning strikes over the past 15 days, which have fed the flames. She added that the province’s hotspots are expecting a brief reprieve over the next few days, but that fire conditions could pick up again later in the week.

“We’ve got some high winds moving through and we’ll see a little more precipitation, but after that, it’ll start to clear, we’ll get some sun and warming, and that will feed the fires that are currently on the landscape,” she said.

A reconnaissance team with the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in Prince George, B.C., and on Monday worked with the BC Wildfire Service to co-ordinate firefighting deployment details. One unit of soldiers will likely deploy to the Burns Lake area, at the Northwest Fire Centre, and another to Vanderhoof, at the Prince George Fire Centre, the CAF said in a statement.

The CAF are also providing two CH-146 Griffon helicopters and, if needed, a CC-130J Hercules plane from the Royal Canadian Air Force. The aircraft will support mobility and logistical tasks, as well as emergency evacuations, the CAF said.

B.C.’s coroner issued a public safety bulletin on Monday after confirming that a nine-year-old boy from 100 Mile House, in the province’s interior, had died from a medical condition aggravated by wildfire smoke.

The boy, Carter Vigh, died last Tuesday in an emergency room, according to his mother, Amber Vigh. A B.C. government statement said he had suffered a severe asthma attack.

Quebec’s provincial forest fire control agency, the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU), said on its website that there were 102 active fires in the province on Monday. It added that 507 fires have burned 1.5 million hectares this year in what the agency calls the “intensive protective zone,” which covers the province’s southern half. That is 96 times the 10-year average.

Of the 102 active fires, 79 were in the “northern zone,” which covers less populated areas in the province’s northern half. A total of 126 fires have burned 2.8 million hectares in the northern zone this year.

SOPFEU is responsible for extinguishing fires in the intensive zone. Fires in the northern zone are dealt with only when they threaten communities or strategic infrastructure, Stéphane Caron, SOPFEU’s prevention and communications co-ordinator, said in an e-mail.

In Ontario, 69 fires were burning on Monday. According to the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry there have been 445 wildfires in Ontario so far this year, surpassing last year’s 127 and the 10-year average of 378.

This year’s fires have already burned more than 392,000 hectares of land in the province. Last year, only 2,401 hectares burned, and the 10-year average is just over 149,000 hectares.

The BC Wildfire Service says lighting is trigging new fires with 1.2-million hectares already burned so far this year. There's little reprieve expected over the next 10 days with the weather forecast to stay hot and dry.

The Globe and Mail

Jesse Wagar, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said regions across the country have broken several all-time maximum temperature records (the hottest temperatures ever reached in history) and daily maximum temperature records (the hottest for a particular day) so far this year.

Throughout May, different locations in Alberta broke 226 local daily temperature records, and locations in Saskatchewan broke 53. Neither province broke any daily temperature records in May, 2022.

On July 8, Norman Wells and Fort Good Hope, in the Northwest Territories, both broke all-time temperature records, at 37.9 and 37.4 degrees, respectively. These two temperature readings are the fourth and fifth hottest ever recorded in the territory.

Of the top five temperatures in the territory, four occurred in the past eight years and three during the past three summers, a trend Ms. Wagar said is alarming.

“This rate of warming and this level of heat, particularly how early it started in May – it’s unheard of. This is very, very hot,” she said. She noted that scorching weather across the country could make for “tenuous” wildfire conditions.

Two people have died battling Canada’s wildfires in the past week. On Thursday, BC Wildfire Service firefighter Devyn Gale, 19, was clearing brush in a remote area near Revelstoke when she was struck by a falling tree. Team members located Ms. Gale, a third-year nursing student at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, after losing radio contact with her. She was airlifted to Queen Victoria Hospital, where she died of her injuries.

Her brother, Nolan Gale, wrote in an Instagram post that she “had the best head on her shoulders” of the family’s three siblings.

“She was careful, considerate, hardworking,” he wrote. “She was smarter and better at what she did than she gave herself credit for. I’m so grateful to have grown up beside her.”

Lesley Cormack, principal and deputy vice-chancellor of UBC’s Okanagan campus, said the fact that Ms. Gale was on the front line fighting wildfires while working toward a nursing career “speaks to the strength of her character.”

On Saturday, a firefighter in the Northwest Territories died from an injury sustained in the Fort Liard district. The territory’s government has not released the name of the firefighter, but has said he is from Fort Liard.

Among the more than a dozen U.S. states where smoke from Canada’s wildfires has triggered air quality alerts are New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Montana.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the smoke is expected to cause the Air Quality Index in upstate communities to reach levels that are considered “unhealthy for all,” and that the state would be issuing hundreds of thousands of N95-style masks.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles