The fires continue to ravage Canada, threatening to increase the toll of an unprecedented and deadly heat wave in the west of the country and the United States. Saturday morning July 3, 177 fires were active in the province of British Columbia, 70% of which were probably triggered by lightning, according to the latest report from local authorities. Canadian soldiers stood ready to intervene.
This western province, with a usually humid and temperate climate, saw the thermometer race a week ago and reach unbearable temperatures. At least 719 people have died there since the start of this heat wave, three times more than normal, according to local health authorities. On the other side of the border, the northwest of the United States also found itself under this “heat dome”, a rare climatic phenomenon aggravated, according to experts, by global warming.
At least 94 people have died in the US state of Oregon and around 20 in Washington state, according to the latest official reports. Under the combined effect of the electric climate and the drought, the outbreaks of fire multiply on both sides of the border and progress rapidly.
The small village of Lytton, 250 km northeast of Vancouver, has become the symbol of this crisis: after breaking the historical record for heat in Canada, with 49.6 ° C, it found itself under threat. flames. Its 250 inhabitants were evacuated in an emergency, and the disaster finally devastated 90% of its territory. One of its residents, Jeff Chapman, told the English channel CBC that he watched helplessly as his parents died in the disaster when an electric pole fell on their shelter.
Even as the mercury started to fall back on the coast, the heat wave spread inland Canada, to Ontario, and millions of people remained on heatwave alert on Saturday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened several ministers on Friday to bring central government assistance to the stricken provinces.
In particular, Ottawa announced the opening of an operations center in Edmonton, western Canada, where 350 soldiers will stand ready to provide logistical assistance. “Across the region, as needed”. Acknowledging the drought, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair anticipated a “Long and difficult summer” on the fire front.
Pyrocumulus clouds worsen the situation
In recent days, the situation has worsened by the appearance of a rare phenomenon: pyrocumulus, stormy clouds that form above a source of intense heat. As these in turn generate lightning, they facilitate the creation of other braziers. The thunderstorms that formed over the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta have generated more than 700,000 lightning between Wednesday and Thursday, calculated the Finnish company Vaisala, specialist in environmental measures.
“I can only stress that the risk of fire is currently extreme in almost all parts of British Columbia and I urge British Columbians to listen carefully to authorities and follow directions.”, prayed the premier of the province, John Horgan.
More than 500 lightning bolts were also recorded on Friday in California, where forest fires devoured more than 15,000 hectares, including in a tourist area which was preparing to welcome many visitors for the long National Day weekend. July 4.
Authorities in California have ordered evacuations along Lake Shasta, an area popular with campers south of the Oregon border and where some 40 structures have been destroyed, including at least half a dozen homes near Lakehead. .