Residents of several parts of British Columbia have been ordered to clear out as forest fires rage across the Canadian province following a record heatwave which officials say have contributed to hundreds of deaths.
By noon on Saturday, 176 fires were considered active in B.C., with 76 reported in the past two days, according to a BC Wildfire Service dashboard.
“We’re generally three weeks ahead of our drying cycle,” Cliff Chapman, BC Wildfire Service regional operations manager, told reporters Friday afternoon. reported by CBC News.
“It doesn’t really compare to the seasons of the past just because of the heatwave that set in in June.”
Chapman said about 12,000 lightning bolts were reported across the province on Thursday alone, CTV News also reported.
Lytton’s Main Street, before and after yesterday’s devastating fire.
(Photo by a member of the Chilliwack Fire Department) pic.twitter.com/OaoRvg1ch3
– Justin McElroy (@j_mcelroy) July 1, 2021
The fires come after Canada’s westernmost province experienced record temperatures over the past week, with the village of Lytton, about 275 km (170 miles) northeast of Vancouver in the BC interior, shattering the national record for days in a row.
Lytton has ordered a community-wide evacuation after huge fires broke out this week, forcing residents to flee. At least two people have died, local media reported.
“There was a total panic,” said Acting Lytton First Nation Chief John Haugen, as reported by Radio-Canada. “It exploded and took everything in its path. “
On Friday evening, Canadian Minister of National Defense Harjit Sajjan said the federal government is establishing an emergency response base in Edmonton, Alta., To help respond to the wildfires.
“We will position more air assets in Edmonton as quickly as possible, including a Hercules aircraft and two Chinook medium-heavy lift helicopters. They can be used to airlift firefighters and equipment to and out of affected areas and support evacuations of residents, ”Sajjan said on Twitter.
Given the severity of the wildfire situation in Western Canada, we are establishing a forward operating location in Edmonton, which will be able to provide support throughout the West if required.
– Harjit Sajjan (@HarjitSajjan) July 3, 2021
The Government of British Columbia also announced disaster financial assistance for local governments and First Nations that have been affected by the fires.
“As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the provincial and federal governments will be there to help Lytton rebuild the community,” Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said in a statement.
Experts pointed out climate change as a driver the start of the wildfire season and the recent heat, which meteorologists say was linked to a so-called “heat dome” – a weather system that traps hot air – which descended on the west coast , as well as over the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Authorities and residents continue to fight the effects of the heat.
British Columbia Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said Friday that 719 deaths had been reported between June 25 and July 1 – three times more than what would normally occur during a similar period. She said many of the deaths were of elderly people living alone in private residences with minimal ventilation.
“We are releasing this information because it is believed that the extreme weather conditions that British Columbia experienced over the past week are a significant factor contributing to the increase in the number of deaths,” Lapointe said in a statement.
“Parts of the province continue to experience unusually high temperatures, and it remains important that we all take extra precautions to avoid the dangerous effects of the intense heat. Pay attention to family, friends and neighbors, especially those who live alone.
Colton Davies, reporter for Radio NL News in Kamloops, British Columbia, said the situation was “very, very serious”.
“Where I am in Kamloops there are several large, very large and uncontrollable fires burning outside the city limits,” Davies told Al Jazeera on Saturday.
“In the last four days or so, as we speak, over 75,000 hectares of forest [have] lost alone because of these devastating forest fires.