Hazard HQ Command Central previously reported on early-season Alberta wildfires.
In May 2022, a series of wildfire outbreaks across northern Alberta, Canada, forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate from their homes, destroyed property in smaller towns, and halted oil and gas operations across the province.
According to an Alberta Government press release on May 31, there are 61 active wildfires burning in the Forest Protection Area. Sixteen of these wildfires are classified as “Out of Control,” 21 are “Being Held,” and 24 are “Under Control.” Wildfires have burned over 1.2 million hectares in Alberta this year, surpassing the previous five years, combined (Figure 1).
Wildfires have spread across the province and new ignitions were recorded in the neighboring province of British Columbia. Due to drought conditions, wildfire activity has increased elsewhere across the country. As of June 1, there are 103 “Out of Control” wildfires across Canada (Figure 2), according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC). Wildfires have burned 2.9 million hectares across Canada this year, according to the CIFFC.
New Wildfires: Property Damage in Nova Scotia
A number of wildfires have damaged property and forced thousands of residents from their homes in Nova Scotia. As of June 1, there are 16 active fires, four of which are “Out of Control,” in Nova Scotia, according to the CIFFC. These wildfires burned 18,729 hectares to date, according to the CIFFC. One fire located near the southern tip of Nova Scotia exceeded the number of hectares burned per the provincial historical record dating back to 1976, according to the NASA Earth Observatory. Last year, wildfires burned 3,389 hectares according to the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Renewables. In terms of total area burned, wildfire activity in 2022 exceeded any of the previous five years by a significant margin despite there being relatively fewer wildfires by count (Figure 3).
Near Nova Scotia’s provincial capital of Halifax, one wildfire damaged property and forced evacuations of nearby residents. Officials from the Nova Scotia government have stated that the wildfires in the Halifax suburb of Westwood Hills burned approximately 200 homes, as of June 1.
Primed for Wildfires: Heat Waves and Little Rainfall
Unseasonably warm and dry conditions have created the optimal environment for wildfire activity. Western Canada experienced a record-setting heatwave in mid-May (Figure 4) where ground surface air temperature anomalies were up 12°C (22°F) relative to the recent historical average, according to Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS).
Increased dryness is also contributing to the active wildfire season in Canada this year. Monthly precipitation depths (rain and snow combined) in 2023 have been below the long-term (1981-2010) monthly average since February 2023 (Figure 5).
Drought conditions dry out plant life, such as grasses and trees, which act as fuel for wildfire activity. High temperature and low precipitation increase both wildfire-spread rates and ignition probability.
The CoreLogic Hazard HQ Command Central team will continue to monitor the situation in Alberta and eastern Canada.
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