May 22, 2024

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Looming fires are forcing thousands of Canadians to evacuate. Some may not return home until next week

Looming fires are forcing thousands of Canadians to evacuate.  Some may not return home until next week

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press/AP

A pumper truck sprays fire retardant on trees around the evacuated Beacon Hill neighborhood in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, on Wednesday, May 15.


Massive forest fires Keep burning Across Canada, prompting thousands of people to evacuate along with children, pets and valuables — many unsure of when they might be able to return home.

Firefighters battling more than 100 blazes across the country could see temporary relief in some areas as a major mid-week storm passes through western and central Canada, increasing the chances of rain and cooler air.

However, several smoldering fires are still burning miles away from neighborhoods. Fire officials warn that slight changes in weather conditions or wind direction can quickly put nearby homes and businesses at risk.

More than 6,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray, Alberta, since Tuesday Fire 51 thousand acres It burns less than 5 miles from the edge of town. The regional municipality said residents should plan to stay away from their homes until at least May 21, and possibly longer.

The blaze near Fort McMurray was still active Wednesday, but winds were expected to start pushing the blaze away from the city and a major highway, Alberta Wildfire Information Officer Jose St. Onge said. Rain is expected to begin falling in the area Wednesday night, with up to an inch of rain expected through tomorrow.

Round-the-clock firefighting efforts, including sea helicopters equipped with night vision devices, helped bring the fire under control. Firefighters – some defending their communities – were also juggling stressful and dangerous shifts.

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“To the firefighters braving the flames to defend Fort McMurray and other areas in the province, we appreciate your heroic efforts more than we can say and pray for your safe return,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said on Wednesday.

For many Fort McMurray residents, smoky skies and anxious evacuations bring back painful memories. Catastrophic fire in 2016 Dubbed “The Monster,” it forced 90,000 people to evacuate and caused billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses.

Resident Jocelyn Routhier, whose neighborhood had not yet been ordered to evacuate, watched from her back porch as the scene grew eerily similar to the previous scene. disaster. She shared two bizarre photos of the fires taken eight years apart.

“This is a déjà vu experience that I don’t want to experience. Let’s hope it doesn’t come true,” Routhier said in a social media post alongside the photos.

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New fires are breaking out every day across Canada, and several out-of-control blazes are threatening densely populated neighbourhoods, sending dozens of evacuees to seek accommodation in hotels, emergency shelters, campsites and recreational vehicles.

Mackenzie Spinrath He is among nearly 5,000 people ordered to evacuate the 31,000-acre Fort Nelson area in British Columbia. Parker Lake Fire It burns just 1.5 miles from the community. Tell CNN affiliate CBC He became immersed in watching the news and scrolling through social media “trying to see if my city was still standing.”

Fire crews in Fort Nelson may be assisted by less than an inch of rain expected Wednesday night into Thursday evening. That’s a far cry from the amount of rain needed to offset drought conditions and extinguish the fires, the British Columbia Wildfire Service said.

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“Obviously it’s not entirely hopeless. But the fire is so close to the city that it’s hard to think of anything but the worst,” said Spinrath.

Cheyenne Perreault/Anadolu/Getty Images

Smoke rises as fire burns at Fort Nelson on May 14.

Unusually dry conditions are also posing challenges for firefighters battling a blaze that has reached within a mile of the community of Cranberry Portage in western Manitoba. About 580 people have been evacuated and there is no estimated time for their return.

“Because the conditions are so dry there, the fire burned deep,” said Earl Simons, director of the Manitoba Wildfire Service. He told CBC. “So firefighters have to get in there and dig deep into the ground to put it out. And we’re not just talking a few inches, we’re talking meters deep in the ground in certain areas.”

The dry conditions that lead to wildfires in Canada are exacerbated by warming conditions caused by human-induced climate change.

“This area has seen several years of drought, with less than normal snowfall this past winter,” said Ben Boughian, a fire behavior specialist with the British Columbia Forest Fire Service. “As a result, our forests in the Fort Nelson area have become very receptive to new fire ignition and rapid rates of spread.”

Reduced snow, increased temperatures and worsening droughts are hallmarks of climate change and are expected to continue to spark larger and more intense fires across Canada. According to Environment Canada.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Sharif Paget, Taylor Galgano and Caitlin Kaiser contributed to this report.

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