New and intensifying fires are forcing the evacuation of thousands across Canada as the country battled out-of-control blazes that a provincial minister warned on Saturday could last “all summer.”
Nearly 17,800 square miles have burned since the beginning of the year, well above previous averages as the country warms quicker than the rest of the world amid climate change.
The country’s west has been particularly hit. After several days of respite, fires intensified in Alberta, where Friday night the town of Edson saw its second evacuation since May.
“The fire is so out of control that some forestry crews have had to back off,” said Luc Mercier, chief administrative officer of Yellowhead County, where Edson is located. “They can’t fight this fire.”
Speaking to broadcaster CBC, resident Hayley Waites said the evacuation of Edson took place in the form of an “enormous convoy” of people fleeing the town.
“When you’re panicking to go all out, all you think about is running away,” she said. “But as soon as you leave in the car, you ask: ‘What if my house is no longer there when I come back?'”
In British Columbia, the 2,400 person town of Tumbler Ridge was largely evacuated as a fire approached within a couple miles of the city.
In the country’s east, Quebec Minister of Public Security Francois Bonnardel said Saturday morning that the situation in the central and northwestern parts of the province remained difficult, with several towns threatened.
Fires in northeast Quebec were considered “stable.”
“This is a first in the history of Quebec to fight so many fires, to evacuate so many people,” he said. “We are going to have a fight that we think will last all summer.”
Some 14,000 people are under evacuation orders in the province, with Bonnardel having declared that “we haven’t yet won the battle.”
Environmental authorities currently list 416 active fires in the country, 203 of which are classified as out of control.