A worrying start to wildfire season

Western Canada has seen more than 600 wildfires so far this year, but officials say the season is just getting started

What happened: A hot, dry spring affecting Alberta, BC, and Saskatchewan has triggered an early start to the wildfire season. Alberta has been the most affected, with over 86 active fires in the province as of yesterday, including 27 that are categorized as out of control.

  • Wildfires can happen naturally, either ignited by a lightning strike or the sun's heat, but most fires in Alberta this year are believed to have been caused by humans.

  • Per Alberta’s Wildfire Status Dashboard, over 530,000 hectares of forest area have been burned so far this year, amounting to roughly the size of Trinidad and Tobago.

Why it matters: This month, wildfires have forced the evacuation of over 30,000 people and hit 3.7% of Canadian oil production at points. The total damage has been enough to warrant a Wikipedia page, and yet we’re still months out from the August peak of wildfire season.

What’s next: Alberta has declared a state of emergency, and all levels of government are rallying support for those affected. Over ~1,500 Albertan firefighters are on the ground, as are ~800 firefighters from outside of the province and members of the Canadian army.—SB