Firefighters install hoses in place while trying to control the fire
Evan COLLIS / Fire and Emergency Services Department
- Western British Columbia has been struggling with devastating fires that caused casualties, great dangers, and many homelessnesses.
- With more than 170 wildfires raging, Canadian troops have been on standby to help evacuate more towns.
- Extreme heat waves and dry weather contributed to the fire, and the government warned that the summer was long and full of challenges.
The Canadian military stood by on Saturday to help evacuate towns and put out more than 170 wildfires triggered by record heat waves and dry conditions, as the Ottawa government warned that the future will be a “long and challenging summer.”
Officials said there were at least 174 fires in western British Columbia, 78 of which were caused in the past two days. Most are caused by strong thunderstorms.
The fire broke out north of Kamloops, 350 kilometers northeast of Vancouver.
According to the public broadcaster CBC, Cliff Chapman, the provincial director of operations at the British Columbia Wildfire Bureau, said: “We saw approximately 12,000 lightning strikes yesterday.”
“Many lightning strikes hit the neighborhood, as seen in the Kamloops area.”
Although the direct blame for the extreme heat is the high-pressure “hot dome” that captures warm air in the region, climate change is making record temperatures more frequent.
According to climate.gov data, on a global scale, the ten years ending in 2019 is the hottest decade on record, and the hottest five years on record have all occurred since 2012.
On Friday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said:
The dry conditions and extreme high temperatures in British Columbia are unprecedented. These wildfires show that we are in the early stages of a long and challenging summer.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with an incident response team on Friday, which included several ministers, and had previously spoken with local, provincial and indigenous leaders.
“We will be there to help,” he told reporters.
According to Defense Secretary Harjit Sajjan (Harjit Sajjan), the response team stated that an operations center will be established in Edmonton, where up to 350 military personnel can be dispatched to provide logistical support to the area. Military aircraft are also being deployed.
Approximately 1,000 people have fled the wildfires in British Columbia, and many others are still unaccounted for.
The Office of Forensic Medicine of British Columbia stated that there were 719 deaths in the past week, which is “three times” the average number recorded over the same period.
The province’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said extreme weather may be “an important contributing factor”.
On Wednesday, the village of Lytton, 250 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, was evacuated after a fire broke out and spread rapidly. According to district councillor Brad Vis, nearly 90% of the village’s land was burned.
Resident Gordon Murray told the CBC: “We really have to go out, we have no choice.”
“We caught the pet we could find. We had to keep one. We grabbed our wallet and got in the car. We didn’t have time to do other things.”
On Tuesday, the village set a Canadian record of 49.6 degrees Celsius.
Wide range of influence
On Saturday, the heat wave continued to spread in central Canada and also affected Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as parts of the Northwest Territories and northern Ontario.
Environment Canada’s announcement in British Columbia warned that “dangerous long-term heat waves will continue” and that “the temperature in the next few days will be very warm”.
Leiden resident Jeff Chapman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that he saw his parents killed in the fire that engulfed the town.
In just a few minutes, the old couple sought shelter in a ditch in their backyard, while Chapman sought safety on a nearby railroad track. He said that from that vantage point, he saw the fire sweep and destroy most of the town.
British Columbia also warned that melting mountain snow and glaciers could cause flooding.
Further south, Washington and Oregon also suffered record temperatures.
Oregon’s forensic examiner said on Friday night that the death toll due to high temperatures in Oregon has reached 94.
Three wildfires in northern California affected by the drought have burned nearly 16,200 hectares of land, including a popular tourist lake, ready to welcome visitors on the July 4th holiday weekend. Evacuation orders along the stretch of Shasta Lake have been put in place.
About 40 buildings were destroyed.
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