Tens of thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate their homes as wildfires rage through Alberta, burning homes, vehicles and thousands of hectares of forest. The province declared a state of emergency on May 6.
What to know about the wildfires in Alberta
What caused the fires?
Most of the fires are believed to be human-caused, according to Christie Tucker, information unit manager with Alberta Wildfire. The situation also reflects changing climate change conditions: as temperatures get hotter, air gets drier and the atmosphere can suck more moisture out of vegetation. This means fires can more easily start and spread, says Mike Flannigan, director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science at the University of Alberta.
Are there more fires this year than in 2022?
Although late April and early May are traditionally high-risk times for wildfires in Alberta, it’s very unusual for this much fire activity so early in the season. There has been significantly more wildfire activity for this time of year than in the past five years, says Ms. Tucker.
What is the impact of wildfire smoke on air quality?
Environment Canada has warned that the smoke is causing poor air quality and reduced visibility in many areas of Northern Alberta. Smoke can be particularly harmful for people with lung or heart disease, children, seniors, people who are pregnant and those who work outdoors.