Wildfires in Canada are unprecedented in numbers

From east to west, Canada is experiencing the scourge of an unprecedented wildfire season, and its peak, which usually comes in July or August, hasn’t arrived yet.

No province was spared, not even Quebec or Nova Scotia in the east, where there are usually no major fires.

Here’s a brief description of what Bill Blair, Minister of Emergency Preparedness, said Tuesday about Canada’s “worst wildfire season on record” in numbers.

A total of 490 wildfires broke out on Tuesday, more than half of which are considered out of control. It began in western Canada in early May, prompting an emergency in Alberta and evacuating tens of thousands of people.

A few weeks later, after the rains brought some relief in western Canada, firefighting efforts turned to Nova Scotia on the Atlantic coast and Quebec, unfamiliar with the scale and strength of this year’s fires.

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Quebec remains the hottest place in the country, with 112 active fires whose smoke is reaching the United States and Europe.

In all, more than 100,000 people have been displaced by the fires across the country.

In a typical year, about 7,500 wildfires burn more than 2.5 million hectares of forest in Canada. But this year the area exceeded 7.8 million hectares, an area almost the size of Austria.

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In Quebec, 1.3 million hectares have been burned so far, compared to an average of less than 10,000 hectares per year over the past decade. The area burned in the last 25 days has exceeded the total for the past 20 years.

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Carbon emissions released into the atmosphere from fires have already surpassed the annual record for Canada, according to the European Copernicus Observatory.

Since the beginning of May, the fires have produced nearly 600 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 88% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions from all energy sources in 2021.

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In 2023 alone, fires in Canada accounted for more than 10% of the carbon emissions of the 2022 global wildfires (1,455 megatons).

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