By far, the worst year on Canadian record was 1989, when more than 11,000 wildfires burned less than 76,000 square kilometers. Fewer than 3,000 have erupted this year, but the area burned is huge. The area of the Czech Republic is less than 79,000 square kilometers.
Wildfire season in Canada usually lasts until September, which means it’s about halfway through. This year, a series of wildfires began in the western province of Alberta in April, followed by dozens of others in the east of the country, including the largest in the history of the province of Nova Scotia.
Experts, including those from the Canadian government, say climate change in North America is creating the perfect conditions for more intense fires and an extension of the time they can rage.
“This season is unprecedented,” said Steven Flisfeder, a meteorologist with the AP government’s Environmental Protection Agency. According to the AP, 490 fires are currently burning across Canada, 255 of which are uncontained. More than a hundred fires have been recorded in the province of Quebec.
The fires mostly burned in sparsely populated areas, and there were no reports of casualties. Tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes and at least hundreds of buildings have been destroyed in the past two months.
Fires also negatively affect air quality, not just in Canada. Smoke from them drifted across the southeastern Great Lakes region and into the eastern United States for several days in the first half of June, where officials noted severe air pollution. Something similar is happening again this week, as scientists have noticed smoke drifting from Canada across Europe.
Hundreds of U.S. firefighters and reinforcements from other countries are battling the flames in Canadian forests. This month, a trio of European Union countries offered their teams as part of the Union’s civil defense mechanism.