The gigantic fires ravaging Canada are of unprecedented virulence. More than 10 million hectares have burned this year, or a fifth of mainland France, according to Canadian government data published on Saturday July 15. The previous absolute record in terms of burnt areas dates back to 1989 with 7.3 million hectares, according to national figures from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center (CIFFC).
So far, the country has counted 4,089 forest fires since January, and as of Saturday, 905 fires were still active, including 571 considered out of control. This balance sheet, provisional, is likely to increase further in the weeks to come. Canada, which is warming faster than the rest of the planet, has been confronted in recent years with extreme weather events, the intensity and frequency of which are increased by global warming linked to human activities. Much of the country is in a state of severe drought with much below average rainfall for months and hot temperatures.
“Worse than our most pessimistic scenarios”
The scale of the fires and their multitude oblige the authorities not to intervene and therefore to let the majority burn. It is mainly the boreal forest that goes up in smoke, far from inhabited areas. But with serious consequences for the environment. “We find ourselves this year with figures that are worse than our most pessimistic scenarios”Yan Boulanger, a researcher for the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources, told AFP. “What is completely crazy is that there has been no respite since the beginning of May”analyzes this specialist in forest fires.
At the start of the season, in May, it was Alberta, in the West, which concentrated all the concerns by being confronted very quickly with an unprecedented situation. A few weeks later, Nova Scotia, an Atlantic province with a very mild climate, and especially Quebec were in turn caught in megafires.
Since the beginning of July, the situation has taken a dramatic turn in British Columbia with more than 250 fires starting in three days last week, mainly triggered by lightning.