Huge Wildfires Are Burning Across Canada, Forcing Thousands of People to Flee with Children, Pets and Valuable Belongings - Latest Global News

Huge Wildfires Are Burning Across Canada, Forcing Thousands of People to Flee with Children, Pets and Valuable Belongings

Huge wildfires across Canada over the past week have forced thousands of people to flee the country with their children, pets and valuable belongings in tow – many not knowing when they will be able to return home.

Firefighters battling more than 100 fires across the country could see temporary relief in some regions as a major storm moves across western and central Canada midweek, increasing the chance of rain and cooler air.

Still, several fleeting fires rage within miles of neighborhoods. Fire officials warn that minor changes in weather conditions or wind direction could quickly endanger nearby homes and businesses.

More than 6,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray, Alberta, since Tuesday as a 51,000-hectare fire burns less than 5 miles from the city’s edge. Residents should plan not to leave their homes until at least May 21, and possibly longer, the regional administration said.

The fire near Fort McMurray was still active Wednesday, but winds were expected to begin pushing the fire away from the town and its main road, said Josee St-Onge, Alberta’s wildfire information officer. Rain showers are expected to begin in the area on Wednesday evening and up to 2.5 cm of rain will fall by tomorrow.

Round-the-clock firefighting operations have helped keep the flames at bay, including water helicopters with night vision goggles. Firefighters – some of whom defend their own communities – have also taken on strenuous and dangerous tasks.

“To the firefighters braving the flames to defend Fort McMurray and other areas of the province, we thank your heroic efforts more than we can say and we pray for your safe return,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Wednesday.

For many Fort McMurray residents, the smoke-blackened skies and anxious evacuations bring back painful memories of a catastrophic 2016 fire dubbed “The Beast” that forced 90,000 people to evacuate and caused billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses.

Resident Jocelyn Routhier, whose neighborhood has not yet been evacuated, watched from her porch as the scene became eerily similar to the previous disaster. She shared two eerie images of the fires, taken eight years apart.

“This is a déjà vu that I would rather not experience. Let’s hope it doesn’t become a reality,” Routhier said in a social media post alongside the images.

“It’s hard to think anything but the worst”

New fires are breaking out across Canada every day, and several out-of-control fires are threatening populous neighborhoods, prompting scores of evacuated residents to seek shelter in hotels, shelters, and campgrounds and RV parks.

Mackenzie Spenrath is among nearly 5,000 people ordered to evacuate the Fort Nelson area of ​​British Columbia, where the 31,000-acre Parker Lake Fire is burning just 1.5 miles from the community. He told CNN affiliate CBC that he was busy watching the news and scrolling social media “to find out if my city is still standing.”

Fort Nelson firefighters said there could be less than an inch of rain forecast Wednesday night and into Thursday evening. But that’s nowhere near the amount of rainfall needed to compensate for the drought and put out the fires, the British Columbia Wildfire Service said.

“Of course it’s not entirely hopeless. “But the fire is so close to the city that it’s hard to think of anything but the worst,” Spenrath said.

Smoke rises as a fire scorches Fort Nelson on May 14.  - Cheyenne Berreault/Anadolu/Getty Images

Smoke rises as a fire scorches Fort Nelson on May 14. – Cheyenne Berreault/Anadolu/Getty Images

Exceptionally dry conditions are also posing challenges for firefighters battling a blaze just a mile from the western Manitoba community of Cranberry Portage. About 580 people have been evacuated and there is no estimated time for their return.

“Because the conditions are so extremely dry up there, the fires burned deep,” Earl Simmons, director of the Manitoba Wildfire Service, told CBC. “So the firefighters have to go in there and dig really deep into the ground to put the fire out. And we’re not just talking about a few centimeters, we’re talking about meters into the ground at certain points.”

The dry conditions leading to Canada’s wildfires are being exacerbated by warming caused by human-caused climate change.

“This region has experienced several years of drought, with below-average snowpack last winter,” said Ben Boghean, fire behavior specialist with the BC Wildfire Service. “For this reason, our forests in the Fort Nelson zone are highly susceptible to new fire ignitions and rapid rates of spread.”

Less snow, rising temperatures and increasing droughts are all signs of climate change and are likely to continue leading to larger and more intense fires across Canada, according to Environment Canada.

CNN’s Melissa Alonso, Sharif Paget, Taylor Galgano and Caitlin Kaiser contributed to this report.

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