Canada is experiencing its worst-ever wildfire season, with over 19 million acres of land burned this year. Hot, dry, and windy conditions, along with lightning strikes and human activities, have fueled the fires. The smoke from the fires has affected air quality and visibility in Canada and the United States. This poses health risks for people and animals.
Where are the fires?
The Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS) is a helpful resource for staying informed about wildfires in Canada. It offers an interactive map where you can easily see the current location, size, and status of active fires throughout the country. Additionally, the CWFIS provides valuable information on fire danger ratings and weather conditions specific to each province and territory. By accessing this user-friendly tool, you can stay updated on the latest developments and make informed decisions regarding fire safety and preparedness. The map is updated daily and can be accessed here.
The interactive map provides users with various functions to explore and understand the wildfire situation. You can zoom in and out, navigate the map, choose different layers and overlays, and access specific details about each fire by simply clicking on it. Additionally, the map highlights the hotspots identified by satellites within the past 24 hours, indicating areas with high temperatures that are likely to be fire locations.
As of June 28, 2023, the map reveals that there are currently 327 active fires across Canada. These fires are primarily concentrated in Ontario with 149 incidents, followed by Quebec with 72, and British Columbia with 46. Among them, the largest fire is the North Bay 23 fire in Ontario, encompassing an expansive area of over 300,000 hectares. It is classified as “out of control.” Moreover, the map illustrates that the majority of provinces and territories in Canada have been assigned high or extreme fire danger ratings. This indicates that new fires can easily ignite and spread rapidly within these regions.
What are the impacts?
|Many places experiencing ‘very unhealthy’ air due to the Canadian wildfires|
The wildfires have caused significant damage to forests, wildlife, infrastructure, and communities. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), more than 2,000 people have been evacuated from their homes due to the fires, and more than 1,000 firefighters and support personnel are working to contain them. The fires have also destroyed or damaged hundreds of buildings, power lines, roads, and bridges.
The smoke from the fires has also created a serious air quality problem for many regions in Canada and the United States. According to the World Air Quality Index (WAQI), several cities in both countries have recorded unhealthy or hazardous levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, especially for people with pre-existing conditions. For example, on June 27, 2023, Chicago and Detroit topped the world air pollution list with PM2.5 levels above 300 µg/m3, which is more than 12 times higher than the recommended limit by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The smoke has also reduced visibility and affected travel and tourism. Several flights have been canceled or delayed due to poor visibility at airports. Some national parks and attractions have been closed or restricted due to fire risk or smoke impact.
What can we do?
Wildfires are a result of complex interactions between climate change, weather patterns, vegetation conditions, and human activities. While some factors are beyond our control, there are some actions that we can take to prevent or reduce the risk of wildfires, such as:
- Following local fire bans and restrictions
- Reporting any signs of fire or smoke to authorities
- Avoiding outdoor burning or using fireworks
- Keeping flammable materials away from sources of ignition
- Creating defensible spaces around homes and properties
- Preparing emergency kits and evacuation plans
- Staying informed and alert about fire activity and air quality
- Supporting fire management agencies and organizations
Wildfires are a natural phenomenon that plays an important role in maintaining forest health and diversity. However, when they become too frequent, intense, or widespread, they can pose serious threats to human health, safety, and well-being. By being aware, responsible, and prepared, we can help protect ourselves and our environment from the impacts of wildfires.