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Canada Heavy smoke hampering firefighting efforts, choking B.C. Interior as 245 wildfires burn

22:02  01 august  2021
22:02  01 august  2021 Source:   cbc.ca

Scientists fear for wildlife in Ontario's boreal forest as wildfires get more frequent and intense

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a view of a large mountain in the background: A wildfire burns near Garrison Lake, just 33 kilometres southwest of Princeton, B.C., on July 31, 2021. It was estimated to be nearly 82 square kilometres in size, with 'significant growth' over the previous day, B.C.'s wildfire service said. © B.C. Wildfire Service/Twitter A wildfire burns near Garrison Lake, just 33 kilometres southwest of Princeton, B.C., on July 31, 2021. It was estimated to be nearly 82 square kilometres in size, with 'significant growth' over the previous day, B.C.'s wildfire service said.

Wildfire crews are battling a growing number of blazes across B.C., and they're also contending with heavy smoke that has blanketed large swathes of the province with dangerous pollutants.

As of Sunday morning, 245 wildfires are active in the province. The largest number are in the Kamloops Fire Centre which includes the Okanagan region, accounting for nearly a third of B.C.'s fires. The number of fires has increased by 14 in the last two days.

Expert: climate change expected to bring longer wildfire seasons and more area burned

  Expert: climate change expected to bring longer wildfire seasons and more area burned VANCOUVER — A combination of drought, heat and drier fuels is causing larger areas to be burned in British Columbia, says an expert. Kira Hoffman, a post-doctoral researcher with University of British Columbia's faculty of forestry, said climate change is expected to create longer wildfire seasons because of more drought, which leads to drier trees and grasses. All of this leads to longer fire seasons and more area burned even though there are fewer blazes, she said. BC Wildfire Service information officer Karley Desrosiers said the area burned is "certainly more" this year compared with previous years.

More than 3,000 properties across the province have been ordered to evacuate, and at least 15 municipalities exceeded the province's maximum 24-hour air pollution exposures.

"Dense smoke continues to affect the Okanagan," Erika Berg, with B.C.'s wildfire service, told CBC News Network. "It means we have to be very strategic with where we station our aircraft, as well as where they are able to operate ... It does affect our operations ... our staff — their well being, their safety — is our top priority.

"We take visibility very seriously."

The province's Interior region continues to suffer from wildfire smoke. Authorities are warning residents of serious health risks of long-term exposure to tiny airborne pollutants for the most vulnerable, including seniors and small children.

Ontario seeing more and larger wildfires this year, officials say

  Ontario seeing more and larger wildfires this year, officials say The number and size of wildfires in northern Ontario this year are substantially higher than average, and have forced thousands of people to flee First Nations communities, the government said Monday. This year there have been 902 wildfires so far, nearly double the 10-year average of 520. More than 520,000 hectares have been burned by those fires, which is more than three times the average of about 153,000. That's the result of extreme drought conditions across most of northern Ontario, where wildfires are sparking easily after lightning strikes, officials said.

Health risks

The smoke is so bad that south of the border numerous areas of the U.S. West were under air quality alerts on Sunday as B.C. wildfire smoke lingered. This includes the northern U.S. Rockies, including portions of Colorado, Wyoming, Washington state and Idaho.

Wildfires emit huge volumes of microscopic smoke particles that researchers say can be harmful, leading to both immediate and long-term health impacts.

A total of 5,050 square kilometres have burned so far this year in B.C.— a 45 per cent increase above the past decade's wildfire season average.

Wildfire smoke has worsened air quality to dangerous levels in many B.C. communities.

The worst-hit community has been Trail — which averaged 36 times the World Health Organization's maximum exposure amount over 24 hours — followed by the nearby Kootenay city of Castlegar, which exceeded WHO guidelines by 30 times over the last day. In the Okanagan region, Kelowna hit 29 times the maximum safe levels in that period.

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Meanwhile, there are still 61 evacuation orders affecting more than 3,000 properties. New orders were issued late on Saturday night for Queest Village and Pete Martin Bay north of Sicamous, B.C., as well as another order for the community of Eastgate southwest of Princeton on the Highway 3.

Evacuation centres have been set up throughout the province to assist anyone evacuating from a community under threat from a wildfire. To find the centre closest to you, visit the Emergency Management B.C. website.

Evacuees are encouraged to register with Emergency Support Services online, whether or not they access services at an evacuation centre.

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