Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver today.
Forest fires have burned through more than one million hectares – 10,000 square kilometres – in Alberta, an early start to a fire season bound to destroy the 1981 record of 1.36 million hectares.
It’s a vast amount of land. Calgary is just over 800 square kilometres in size; Vancouver and the surrounding Lower Mainland are just over 5,000 square kilometres.
“This is extraordinary,” Christie Tucker, a spokesperson for Alberta Wildfire, said during a news conference on Tuesday in Edmonton.
“Even though we have made headway on many wildfires on the landscape, we know that the season is far from over.”
In British Columbia, too, wildfires have forced people from their homes already this year.
But the rain and cooler temperatures coming this week have offered a reprieve. By Tuesday, all evacuation orders in the northeastern part of the province were lifted. In Alberta, the rain has meant several “good days,” Ms. Tucker said.
Eighteen of the 82 active blazes in British Columbia are considered out of control; in Alberta, it is 20 out of 71 that are out of control.
Thousands of people are on evacuation order, and the heavy smoke from the fires has choked tens of thousands more. A pall of smoke has blanketed Calgary, with air-pollution levels dangerously high.
Lisa Stewart, a mother of twin four-year-old girls, said she and her family mask up to go outside, but the only way to avoid the smoke is to stay indoors with the windows shut and the air conditioning off.
“Days like today, we are staying inside, but then what do you do with two four-year-olds all day? We have done a lot of bath times, just trying to keep us cool because we can’t have any windows open,” she said Monday.
Keeping a distance from the smoke and flames has also posed acute challenges for Alberta ranchers and farmers with livestock. When an evacuation order is issued, they face three options: Defy the order, stay with their animals and hope the blaze doesn’t come too close; leave their livestock behind and hope the order lifts quickly; or relocate their animals to a safe place. That last option, the preferred one for many, comes with logistical hurdles.
The Alberta Beef Producers have created a map of places willing to take in livestock from evacuation zones.
As Cassie MacDonell reports today, the blue points on the map show livestock shelter offers from almost 40 Albertan agriculture societies and rodeo associations. Orange points indicate agriculture societies that are in need of donations, such as hay bales for evacuated animals. The map is maintained by ABP, which receives offers and requests by e-mail.
“It’s amazing how many people step up without even being asked,” said Brodie Haugan, chair of the non-profit producers’ organization.
Last week, in B.C., there were about 130 agriculture operations with livestock under evacuation order, and close to 90 operations under evacuation alert, according to B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Shayna Bueckert, a central B.C. farmer, is one of many who are offering space for evacuees and their animals.
Although no one has taken her up on her offer yet, she said whether to help wasn’t even a question.
If her farm is ever placed under an evacuation order, she knows people all over B.C. and Alberta will come to her assistance.
“We have the ability to help,” she said. “We do what we can.”
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief Mark Iype. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.