Firefighters make progress in B.C. wildfires

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Active wildfires burning in BC, 13 July 2017 (BC Wildfire Service/Google)

More than 300 firefighters from across Canada including New Brunswick are now in British Columbia to relieve those already on the ground battling over 180 wildfires.

Some progress has been made thanks to recent cooler weather but 14,000 residents have been evacuated and thousands more are on alert to leave their homes at short notice.

Forecasters say gusty winds expected this weekend could fan the flames even further and the heat is also expected to return.

The economy of the B.C. Interior is taking a hit this summer with many campgrounds and provincial parks forced to close due to the wildfires and related road closures.

Forest fire tragedy in Portugal

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Burnt cars block a road in the Pedrogao Grande area, Portugal, 18 June 2017 (AP/Armando Franca)

A massive forest fire in central Portugal has claimed more than 60 lives and injured dozens of others with hot, windy conditions fanning the flames.

Many died in their vehicles trying to flee the blaze while others died from smoke inhalation.

Portugal has declared three days of mourning in what has been called the worst human tragedy in recent times.

More than 2,000 firefighters are on the scene with help coming from Spain and across Europe.

Officials believe lightning started the fire on Saturday in the mountainous area of Pedrogao Grande, northeast of Lisbon.

Canada’s Top 10 of 2016

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RCMP officer in burnt neighbourhood, Fort McMurray, AB, 05 May 2016 (Alberta RCMP)

From the horrible wildfires which destroyed parts of Fort McMurray, Alberta to the winter that wasn’t to a warm, dry summer which led to drought in areas of Eastern Canada, 2016 was certainly noteworthy for major weather events.

  1. Fort McMurray’s “Fire Beast”
  2. Super El Niño Cancels Winter – 2nd warmest Canada-wide ever
  3. August Long Weekend Storm on the Prairies… Big and Costly
  4. A Summer to Remember in the East
  5. November’s Heat Wave and December’s Deep Freeze
  6. Arctic Sea Ice Going, Going… Break-up earlier/Freeze-up later
  7. Wild Summer Prairie Weather
  8. A Tale of Two Springs – Cold East and Warm West
  9. Thanksgiving Day Atlantic Weather Bomb
  10. Southwest Ontario’s $100 Million September Gusher                                               (Courtesy Environment Canada)

Wildfires tear through Tennessee

Burned buildings and cars aftermath of wildfire in Gatlinburg Tennessee

Wildfire devastation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA, 29 Nov 2016 (Reuters)

It sounds all too familiar in 2016 – wildfires devastate a community.

This time it’s autumn in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and last time it was spring in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

About 1,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed by wildfires in the eastern part of the southern U.S. state of Tennessee.

Officials believe the fire was human-caused and began earlier this week in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Strong winds toppled trees and power lines and spread embers to nearby Gatlinburg where 14,000 people had to be evacuated.

Rain has helped fire crews but months of drought has left the ground bone-dry.

At least two Canadians are among 13 people who have died in the wildfires.

PM Trudeau in Fort McMurray

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tours burnt-out areas of Fort McMurray, AB with Fire Chief Darby Allen, 13 May 2016 (Reuters)


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Fort McMurray on Friday for the first time since wildfires destroyed more than 10 percent of the city or about 2,400 buildings.

Trudeau praised the work of emergency responders including firefighters for helping to save most of the city including the downtown core.

More than 90,000 people remain displaced and are staying with family or friends or remain in evacuation centres waiting for word on when they can return home.

Trudeau announced an extension of jobless benefits for those in the region which follows emergency financial aid announced for fire victims by the Red Cross and the Alberta government.

Although the wildfires have moved away from Fort McMurray, officials say the blazes could burn for weeks to come in forested areas.

Wildfires grow in northern Alberta

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RCMP officer in burned neighbourhood of Fort McMurray, 05 May 2016 (Alberta RCMP)


Apart from RCMP officers on patrol, the city of Fort McMurray remains a ghost town after wildfires forced almost 90,000 residents to evacuate.

Thousands who fled north to oil sands camps found themselves stranded since Highway 63 is the only route south.

RCMP are leading vehicles in convoys heading south through empty and burned out areas of Fort McMurray to evacuation centres as far south as Edmonton.

Wildfires have grown to cover 1000 square kilometres of northern Alberta and officials say only rain and cooler conditions will help temper the flames.

Wildfire engulfs Fort McMurray

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RCMP among few left in Fort McMurray enforcing evacuation, 04 May 2016 (RCMP/Twitter)

About 1,600 buildings have burned to the ground in Fort McMurray as a wildfire engulfed the southwest portion of the city late yesterday.

Alberta has declared a state of emergency as the government confirms many homes in the Beacon Hill and Waterways neighbourhoods have been destroyed.

The wildfire cut the city in two forcing 10,000 people to evacuate north to oil sands camps and at least 80,000 had to head south.

Traffic became gridlocked on Highway 63 as dozens of drivers abandoned their vehicles after breaking down or running out of gas.

Heading further south to Edmonton, drivers faced a slow, tense trip with bumper-to-bumper traffic and long lineups at the few gas stations available.

The military has been called in to help firefighters and hundreds of additional RCMP officers are being deployed to the region.

Wildfire forces evacuation of Fort McMurray

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Wildfire closes in on Fort McMurray, AB neighbourhood, 03 May 2016 (Facebook)

The largest mandatory evacuation in the history of Alberta is underway as more than 80,000 people flee Fort McMurray due to a raging wildfire.

The forest has been tinder-dry and weather has not been cooperating for firefighters either with strong winds, soaring temperatures and low humidity.

The fire had entered the city limits by mid-afternoon and social media reports say homes, a trailer park and a hotel were engulfed in flames.

The airport remains open and officials say the city’s only hospital has been successfully evacuated.

Residents are being told to head north to the oil sands camps or Highway 63 south with evacuation centres on the way to Edmonton.

Canada’s Top Ten of 2015

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Courtesy Environment Canada

1. Record Cold Winter in the East

For the second consecutive year, Canada’s top weather story was a long, cold, snowy winter from Ontario to the Maritimes.

2. Forests Blazing in the West

The wildfire season began early, ended late and was extremely active; 4,922 fires consumed an incredible 3.25 million hectares of woodland, four times the 25-year average.

3. Dry to Almost Disastrous in the West

Prairie farmers faced many challenges this year with killing frosts in May, spring and early summer dryness, and too many hailstorms.

4. Maritime Snowmaggedon

Maritimers endured brutal cold and had to dig out from record snowfalls. January, February and March were the coldest in 68 years.

5. Record Hot Dry Summer across B.C.

Persistently warm waters and a large high pressure area off the coast led to record-breaking warmth and even drought in British Columbia.

6. Stormy Summer on the Prairies

Severe summer weather events such as tornadoes, heavy rainfalls, strong winds and hailstorms numbered 307 across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba compared to an average of 234.

7. Groundhog Day Storm

The nasty nor’easter brought strong winds, poor visibility and a mix of messy precipitation from Ontario to Atlantic Canada.

8. B.C.’s Big August Blow

After heat, drought and massive wildfires, a dramatic shift in late August brought leftover fuel from tropical storm Kilo which was known more for its fierce winds than relief rains.

9. Maritime Valentine Storm, A White Juan-a-be

A powerful nor’easter charged the Maritimes on Valentine’s Day, with up to 80 cm of snow. Maritimers compared this storm with the infamous White Juan blizzard 11 years earlier.

10. January in July for St. John’s

Eastern Newfoundland had a cold July with an average high of 15.8°C, a new low record dating to 1942 and 10 degrees cooler than last year! Total July rainfall of 181 mm was the second wettest on record.

(List courtesy Environment Canada)

Wildfire rages in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley

Smith Creek wildfire near West Kelowna, B.C. (Facebook)

Smith Creek wildfire near West Kelowna, BC, 20 July 2014 (Facebook)

The so-called Smith Creek wildfire is roughly half contained according to British Columbia fire officials and thousands have been allowed to return to their homes in West Kelowna.

About 300 residents remain evacuated since their homes are deemed to be closest to the fire.

The Smith Creek wildfire is roughly 260 hectares in size and officials say blazes inside the perimeter will keep burning and will be visible for several weeks.

Forecasters say recent wet weather will end and hot, dry conditions are expected to return later this week.