On Wednesday, June 7th, the skies in the Northeast remained filled with smoke and haze, as a result of more than 413 wildfires in Canada. Now the smoke of these wildfires is causing unhealthy air conditions in USA as well.
The peril posed by wildfires, which have spread across a vast distance from British Columbia on the west coast to Nova Scotia nearly 2,900 miles away in the east, became apparent on Tuesday in the central political hub of the country.
Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, along with the magnificent Gothic Revival structure housing Canada’s Parliament, was enveloped in a dense haze. The smoke obscured the sun, casting an eerie orange shade in the sky, reminiscent of an apocalyptic scene. Along with this, an entire village in Quebec, Clova, has been decimated due to the fires.
The smoke from the forest fires has led to the sky being covered in a haze. The air quality in Ottawa recently hit the highest level it has ever been on the Environment Canada’s Air Quality index. This year Toronto and New York City were ranked to have one of the worst air qualities in the world.
The smoke from these forest fires spread onto the United States and air quality alerts have been issued for New York and some states surrounding the same due to being shrouded in a thick veil of smoke. Even of the USA is not threatened by the flames, it is still being choked by the smoke.
Damage to Lifestyle
Due to the danger posed by these forest fires and the damage to the air quality, more than 26,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. While 2/3rd of the evacuated people have been cleared to go back to their residences in Nova Scotia due to relief provided by rains, Quebec is seeing a continuous rise in the number of evacuants.
Citizens have been reported to feel burning sensations in their throat, lost their voice, and have difficulty in breathing. The mask has also seen a comeback since the outbreak of Covid-19. Citizens have also been advised to spend more time indoors. If the conditions deteriorate, a quarantine similar to the lockdown might be seen again.
The private property like homes and cars, of countless citizens has also been burned down to ash. The fires are also emitting numerous green house gases, which further contribute towards climate change. According to weather forecasts, rain is not due to fall in the next 4-5 days, meaning the fire is likely to get bigger.
“Wildfire Season” sees an average of 2.5 million hectares turned to smithers due to the fires every year. This year, 2.7 million hectares have been burnt in May alone. This is 12 times more than average and a lot earlier in the season.
Cause of the Fires
These wildfires started on Sunday, 4th of June, 2023. The wildfires are believed to have started due a lightning strike in the forest. The fire produced as a result of this was then fueled by the extreme dry weather that Canada is facing due to climate change.
Ed Struzik, energy and environmental fellow, Queen’s University, said in an interview, “when you get a single degree increase in temperature, you get 12 times more lightning”. Canada with a latitude warming quickly due to climate change faces among the greatest risks of wildfires.
Relief Measures being taken
“More difficult and devastating wildfires, more intense hurricanes and storms, we are going to need to continue to step up in our support for Canadians” Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, while addressing the press in Ottawa stated that the Ottawa is coordinating with the provinces, training more community-based firefighters, and is also partnering with indigenous communities. However, Canada’s approach towards handling the situation has been criticized by experts.
“We have different levels of government in Canada, taking different levels of responsibility. We need to have a more national approach to this,” said Gordon McBean, Western University, London. This national approach was suggested as an effort to have provinces work together due to the fact that the fires do not stop in one province, but can cross borders.
Currently over 400 firefighters are working towards defeating these wildfires in Canada at the risk of their lives. Several other countries have lent Canada with helping hands and have sent firefighters from all over the world to help control the fires.
Over 1000 international firefighters from South Africa, USA, Australia and New Zealand have travelled to help with the situation and 200 more are expected to arrive this week.