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Canadian wildfire forces thousands to evacuate as smoke makes air dangerous

Thousands of residents in a Canadian city are being asked to evacuate due to a rapidly spreading wildfire that has led to poor air quality and reduced visibility.

The fire in northeastern British Columbia started Friday and nearly doubled in size the next day, reaching about 4,200 acres. Maps from the BC Wildfire Service showed the fire burning a few kilometers west of the Fort Nelson city limits. Fort Nelson is located in the far northeast of British Columbia, approximately 995 miles from Vancouver. Fort Nelson and the Fort Nelson Indian Reservation have a combined population of approximately 3,000.

Wildfire smoke coming from British Columbia is causing widespread poor air quality and reduced visibility, according to an alert Sunday.

Online images shared by residents of the Fort Nelson wildfire showed thick plumes of smoke rising high into the sky, with homes in the foreground. In some photos, the mist appeared to cover large areas.

The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and Fort Nelson First Nation issued a joint statement warning people choosing to stay that “emergency medical services are not available, nor are grocery stores or other amenities.”

Municipal Mayor Rob Fraser said most residents in and around Fort Nelson were evacuated, adding that police were going door to door to make sure everyone got out.

“In times of uncertainty, unity becomes essential,” Fraser said in the press release. “Please evacuate calmly, our collective strength will be our resilience.”

Health officials said Fort Nelson General Hospital has been safely evacuated and closed until further notice.

Smoke rises from the HTZ001 mutual aid wildfire in the high-level forest area
An image taken through a window shows smoke rising from a HTZ001 mutual aid wildfire in the High Level Forest Area, which originated in the Northwest Territories in 2023 but ignited due to high winds violent, near Indian Cabins, Alberta, Canada on May 10, 2024.

ALBERTA WILDFIRES via Reuters


Alberta authorities also issued an alert for a wildfire 15.5 miles southwest of the oilsands city of Fort McMurray, which could impact visibility on highways in some areas. No evacuation orders have been given so far for the major Canadian oil city.

Fire restrictions will remain in effect in the region until conditions improve, officials said.

“Five wildland fire crews, nine helicopters and air tankers worked on the southeast perimeter today. Windy conditions challenged firefighting efforts,” Alberta Wildfire said Saturday, adding that an incident management team would manage the wildfire.

High winds pushed smoke across Alberta on Saturday, placing the city of Edmonton under an air quality advisory with danger levels rated at more than 10 – or “very high risk” – predicted.

Meteorologists do not expect rain and have advised people to stay indoors.

Although conditions are expected to begin to improve Sunday evening, they will likely remain poor through Monday or even Tuesday, officials said.

Canadian authorities warned Sunday that people with lung diseases like asthma, people with heart disease, the elderly, children, pregnant women and people working outdoors are at higher risk of suffering health effects linked to smoke from forest fires. They recommended that people who spend time outdoors wear a mask to reduce exposure to fire particles in smoke.

“Wildfire smoke can be harmful to everyone’s health, even at low concentrations,” officials said.


Smoke from Canadian wildfires pollutes air in the United States

02:12

In April, Canadian officials warned that the country could face another catastrophic wildfire season after those of last year. historical fires.

This winter, there have been warmer-than-normal temperatures and widespread drought conditions across Canada, officials said. The weather outlook indicates Canada can also expect warmer than normal temperatures this spring and summer, paving the way for wildfires.

“With the heat and drought prevailing across the country, we can expect the wildfire season to start earlier and end later, and potentially be more explosive,” said Canada’s minister of Civil Protection, Harjit Sajjan, during a press conference.

Wildfire season in Canada typically runs from May to October. The country is home to approximately 9% of the world’s forests.

In 2023, Canada saw a record number of wildfires that also caused choking smoke in parts of the United States and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate across British Columbia. That year, 19 counties in 11 states experienced multiple days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality.

Smoke spread toward the United States, covering parts of the East Coast and Midwest. Last June, New York City’s air quality became one of the worst in the world due to smoke from wildfires in Canada.

In 2023, severe weather in Canada caused more than $3.1 billion in insured losses, officials say.

News Source : www.cbsnews.com
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