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Canada braces for above-normal wildfire risk in June, July

Despite an early start to the 2024 wildfire season, Canada is in a much better place than it was last year, but there is a risk of “above-normal” fire activity in the coming months, officials warned Wednesday.

A total of 69 active fires were burning across Canada as of Wednesday, including eight deemed out of control, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

Most of the wildfire activity at the moment is occurring in Alberta and British Columbia, with a few fires of note in Quebec, officials said.

“Unfortunately, this forecasting continues what has become an alarming but an all too predictable trend,” said Natural Resources Minster Jonathan Wilkinson.

“Climate forecast indicates that the coming summer months will likely be warmer than normal in most of Canada, with parts of the country seeing less rainfall than normal,” he said at a news conference in Ottawa.

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For the month of June, Wilkinson said there is a higher likelihood of above-normal fire activity across much of Canada, stretching from B.C. to western Labrador, New Brunswick, and southern Nova Scotia.

In July, fire activity is possible from Yukon and eastern B.C. across to western Quebec. The most intense region for July will likely be from northeastern B.C. across the Northwest Territories and the Prairie provinces.

“This forecast underscores the importance of wildfire mitigation and of course of climate adaptation,” said Wilkinson, adding that climate change was the root cause of the increasing frequency and intensity of forest fires.

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Canada experienced its worst wildfire season ever recorded last year, with roughly 18.5 million hectares of land burned in 2023.

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While the forecast for June shows a promising reduction in fire severity compared with last year, the outlook for July and August looks very similar to 2023 at this time, officials said.

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Environment and Climate Change Canada is forecasting continued “above-normal” temperatures and drought for all Canadian regions over the summer months.

So far this year, a total of 1,497 wildfires in Canada have burned roughly 522,043 hectares of land, CIFFC data showed.

In comparison, almost three million hectares of land had burned around this time last year, officials said.

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The latest American wildfires and Canada’s wildfire season outlook

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan said the number of fires burning as well as the total area burned is well below the 10-year average for this time of year.

However, the situation can change quickly as wildfire activity is increasing within one or more jurisdictions, he said.

“Multiple regions are at an elevated risk due to a combination of hot, dry and windy conditions,” Sajjan said.

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The key areas of concern include northeastern B.C., Northern Alberta, South Central Northwest Territories, and Northern Quebec, he said.

There are also several new wildfires over east-central and west-central Quebec, which is the region of most risk for this upcoming week, Sajjan said.

“While expected rainfall in some regions may reduce the risk of fire, thunderstorms and associated lightning strikes present a concern of new ignitions though,” he said.

“Potential flash flooding could also complicate firefighting efforts, Sajjan said, urging “all Canadians to be prepared.”

Last year, the federal government fast-tracked agreements with provinces and territories to deliver $250 million of equipment, which is supporting the procurement of life-saving equipment and personnel for the 2024 wildfire season.

Wilkinson said the government is on track to train 1,000 additional firefighters by the end of this year.

“In Canada, we are working together to prepare for whatever the next few months have in store,” he said.

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