Thousands of residents fled blazes in western Canada on Wednesday with several hundred soldiers scheduled to deploy to fight this year’s virulent and early fires, which are wreaking havoc across portions of western North America.
“I have a holiday trailer that is my new home,” said Margo Wagner, head of a district in the western province of British Columbia, who has found herself among the evacuees.
The fire marks the second time in four years that her home in the province’s central Canim Lake rural area has been threatened by a blaze.
South of the border, a number of communities in the United States are being threatened by wildfires, creating conditions that are so extreme that the blazes have generated their own climate, according to experts.
Nearly 80 huge fires are currently ravaging hundreds of thousands of hectares in California, Oregon, Montana and Nevada.
The largest among these is still the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which has burned through a section of land the same size as the city of Los Angeles, in just two weeks.
In neighboring California, several towns were evacuated as they faced rising flames from the Dixie Fire, a conflagration that may have been caused by a tree falling on Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) lines.
Back in Canada, British Columbia declared a state of emergency on Monday, with more than 5,700 people under an evacuation order and more than 32,000 people under evacuation alert.
“We did it in 2017 and we will do it again in 2021. Is it stressful? Is it scary? Absolutely it is,” Wagner said.
Other neighboring areas are preparing for the worst since weather conditions — particularly wind and heat — are not expected to give 3,000 firefighters already fighting the blazes a break anytime soon.
“I have been living here in Ashcroft for almost 25 years now and I have never seen anything like this before,” said Mayor Barbara Roden, whose municipality in the center of the province has been on high alert since July 14.
“The most frightening thing in a lot of ways is that we’re all looking at the calendar and this is only halfway through July,” she said.
Climate change amplifies droughts which dry out regions, creating ideal conditions for wildfires.
The Canadian armed forces are preparing to deploy 350 additional troops to British Columbia and 120 to Manitoba, a central province also struggling with large fire outbreaks, according to the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
In Ontario, some 75 military personnel are helping firefighters.