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Fire threatens to invade Canadian city and smoke begins to reach the USA

An out-of-control wildfire exhibiting “extreme fire behavior” threatens to encroach on a small Canadian community as the country's wildfire season begins for the second year in a row.

The Parker Lake fire in northeastern British Columbia more than tripled in size over the weekend to 13,000 acres and is now reaching the small community of Fort Nelson. The forecast is that gusts of wind will push the fire towards the community during the day on Monday (13).

“Our current fire behavior projections show that the Fort Nelson community may be impacted during the morning of May 13,” said Ben Boghean, fire behavior specialist with the BC Wildfire Service, in a Sunday update on May 12. Facebook. It is unclear how far the fire has advanced since the update.

About 3,200 residents in northeastern British Columbia were under evacuation orders Saturday afternoon as the Parker Lake fire continued. About 2,800 residents of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and about 450 residents of Fort Nelson First Nation were asked to evacuate.

“If you are still in Fort Nelson, or anywhere in the Parker Lake wildfire evacuation order, I encourage you to leave,” said Cliff Chapman, director of provincial operations for the BC Wildfire Service, in Sunday's update. “Ignitions are drier than ever. The wind will be sustained and will push the fire towards the community. Escape routes may be compromised and visibility will be poor as the fire continues to grow.”

Jaylene MacIver, information officer for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, told CNN that “in general there has been good compliance with the order”, although some residents have chosen to remain in place.

More than 90 percent of the roughly 450 residents of Fort Nelson First Nation have evacuated the area, emergency operations director Terry Cavaliere told CNN .

Extremely dry conditions and winds gusting up to 40 km/h are fueling the fire on Monday, but the seeds of fire activity were sown over the winter and in recent years as the world continues to warm due to climate change. man-made climate change.

“This region has experienced several years of drought, with below-normal snowpack this past winter,” Boghean said. “As a result of this, our forests in the Fort Nelson zone are very receptive to new fires and rapid rates of spread.”

Decreasing snowfall, rising temperatures and worsening droughts are hallmarks of climate change and are predicted to continue to spark larger and more intense fires across Canada, according to Environment Canada.

Last year was the most devastating fire season on record in Canada, including in British Columbia, where fires tore through hundreds of homes and an area the size of Maryland, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

The Parker Lake fire is not the only one. There are more than 100 fires across Canada, 39 of which are considered out of control, according to the Canadian Interagency Fire Centre.

Evacuation warnings are also in effect in parts of Alberta as the MWF-017 wildfire burns out of control near Fort McMurray in the northeastern region of the province, officials said. The fire had burned about 16,000 acres as of Sunday morning.

Dangerous smoke invades the USA

The smoke caused Environment Canada to issue a special air quality statement stretching from British Columbia to Saskatchewan. Pollution from the fires reached the northern U.S. for the first time this year, and air quality advisories were issued for Wisconsin and Minnesota. Air quality reached “unhealthy” levels in southern Minnesota on Monday morning, including Minneapolis-St. Paul, according to AirNow.gov.

Particle levels this high could cause problems for sensitive groups or anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Smoke from wildfires has been linked to an increase in certain types of cancer and heart problems, among other illnesses.

Last year, wildfires in Canada ripped through parts of the United States and caused dangerous weather conditions across the country. In 2023, 19 counties in 11 states had days with “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” air quality — receiving at least a “code purple” alert on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index.

Air quality conditions are expected to improve across the U.S. during Monday but persist in parts of Canada closer to the fires, including Alberta and British Columbia.

Canadian authorities have warned that those most at risk of health effects from wildfire smoke include people with lung diseases such as asthma, people with heart disease, as well as the elderly, children, pregnant women and people who work outdoors. They also recommended those who spend time outdoors to wear a mask to help reduce exposure to fine smoke particles.

Alberta residents prepare to evacuate

Evacuation warnings are also in effect in parts of Alberta as the MWF-017 wildfire burns about 16 kilometers southwest of Fort McMurray, according to a statement from the Wood Buffalo Regional Municipality. Alerts were active in Fort McMurray, Saprae Creek Estates, Gregoire Lake Estates, Fort McMurray First Nation #468, Anzac and Rickards Landing Industrial Park.

“While there is no immediate risk to these communities, the alert ensures that residents are prepared to evacuate if conditions change,” the statement said.

Light rain was expected overnight Sunday, with more rain forecast on Monday, “which will help reduce fire activity,” said a Sunday update from Alberta Wildfire. “This will give firefighters a good window to continue making progress in containing the fire,” he said.

“Two night vision helicopters will work overnight to dump water on the fire with their buckets,” the update said.

Crews made progress establishing a fire station on the northeast side of the fire on Sunday, officials said.

Fire restrictions will remain in effect in the area until conditions improve, according to Alberta Wildfire.

Source: CNN Brasil

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