Canada's Devastating Wildfires Are Back; Some Never Left

May 16, 2024

The wildfires that scorched 46 million acres in 2023 across Canada are back. In fact, many of them never left. The fires just smoldered underground over the winter as “zombie fires” waiting to rise from the ashes. The 2023 fire season burned the most land in the nation's history. 

There are 133 blazes burning in nine of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. Most of them are in the country’s northwest. That's according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center (CIFFC). At least 41 are considered out of control.

Warming temperatures brought on by climate change have shrunk snowpack and triggered long droughts, experts say. That has left some "holdover" fires from 2023 burning underground rather than being put out.  

"We are in a severe drought for a third year in a row," Sonja Leverkus, an ecosystem expert, told CBS News.  

The blazes have forced thousands of residents to flee. The wildfires are threatening such cities as Fort Nelson, British Columbia, and Fort McMurray, Alberta. Like last year, the fires are pushing thick smoke into the US. The blazes have also downed power lines. That's knocked out communications in more remote parts of Canada.   

On Friday, many Yukon residents lost cell service and internet access. In Yukon's capital, most ATM machines were shut down by the fires. Those still working were quickly drained by people rushing to get cash. 

In Fort McMurray, the current blaze brought back memories of a 2016 wildfire called “The Beast.” It forced the evacuation of 90,000 residents and caused billions of dollars in damage.     

One business owner who stayed behind to help fight the fires described Fort Nelson for the CBC as “a war zone right now.”  

Reflect: If you lived in a region prone to wildfires, how do you think you would prepare for them?

Photo of wildfire in British Columbia from Reuters.

Which of the following ideas is highlighted by the author throughout the story? (Common Core RI.5.3; RI.6.3)
a. Wildfires are only dangerous in the summer.
b. Wildfires do not affect people living in cities.
c. Wildfires can cause serious disruptions to daily life.
d. Wildfires are easy to control with modern technology.
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