June 8 (Reuters) – Wildfires continued to burn across Canada on Thursday as the country endured its worst wildfire season, forcing thousands of people from their homes and sending plumes of smoke over U.S. cities.
3.8 million hectares (9.4 million acres) have already burned, about 15 times the 10-year average, Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said. Warm, dry conditions are expected to continue in the coming months.
While wildfires are common in Canada, it is unusual for them to burn simultaneously in the east and west, stretching firefighting resources and forcing the Canadian government to send in the military to help. Hundreds of American firefighters arrived in Canada to help and more were on their way.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blames climate change. “These fires are affecting daily routines, lives and livelihoods, and our air quality,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Some of the worst fires have spread in the eastern province of Quebec, and more than 11,000 people have had to evacuate their homes in Quebec.
Alberta’s wildfire season got off to a steady start last month, burning a record area, and Nova Scotia is battling its biggest blaze yet.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit) on Thursday before thunderstorms and heavy rain arrive in parts of British Columbia, the Pacific province facing the second largest wildfire on record.
Rob Schweitzer, executive director of BC Wildfire, said lightning strikes can spark more blazes in tinder-dry forests and the outcome will depend on how much rain comes with the storms.
“When you get 150 or 200 strikes a day from lightning coming through the province, you can’t have enough resources to suppress them all,” he said.
Wildfires have subsided in Alberta, the heartland of Canada’s oil and gas industry, but more than 3,000 people are under evacuation orders and heat warnings are in effect in the south of the province.
Smoke-forecasting website BlueSky Canada showed wildfire smoke spreading across much of the country on Thursday. Smog will intensify in Ottawa, Toronto, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and will be thick in other cities along the US East Coast, including New York.
Reporting by Nia Williams in British Columbia; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
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