More than 170 wildfires in Canada have overwhelmed firefighters and the military is on standby today to prepare to fight fires and assist residents with evacuations. Amid a record heat wave and extremely dry conditions, authorities in Ottawa warned of a “long and challenging summer” ahead.
AFP quoted officials as reporting that there are at least 174 wildfires in western British Columbia, 78 of which have broken out in the past two days. Most of the wildfires were caused by violent thunderstorms.
The wildfires are north of Kamloops, which is 350 kilometers northeast of Vancouver.
We saw about 12,000 flashes of lightning yesterday,” said Cliff Chapman, provincial taskmaster for the B.C. Wildfire Service, the public television station CBC reported. Many of those hit near communities, as seen in Kamloops.”
Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said yesterday, “The dry conditions and extreme heat in British Columbia have never been seen before. The wildfires here show that we are at the beginning of what could be a long and challenging summer.”
About a thousand people have fled the BC wildfires, but many are still unaccounted for.
The B.C. coroner’s office says 719 people have died in the past week, “more than three times the average” for the same period. The local chief medical examiner, Lisa Lapointe, said the extreme weather could be “a significant contributor”.
The village of Lytton, 250 kilometers northeast of Vancouver, set a national record high temperature of 49.6 degrees Celsius on June 29, and evacuated people the next day because of a rapidly spreading fire. According to local representatives, nearly 90% of the village of Lytton was kissed by fire.
Villagers told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “We had to leave, there was no choice. We took all the pets we could find at home, but one of them couldn’t be found and we had to leave it behind. We jumped in the car with our wallets and didn’t have time to get anything else.”