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Wildfires burn across Canada with little relief in sight

Wildfires burn across Canada with little relief in sight

June 8 (Reuters) – Wildfires continued to rage across Canada on Thursday as the country endured its worst start to the fire season, forcing thousands of people from their homes and sending a smoky haze billowing across American cities.

About 3.8 million hectares (9.4 million acres) have already burned, about 15 times the 10-year average, according to federal emergency preparedness minister Bill Blair. Warm and dry conditions were expected to persist in the coming months.

Although wildfires are common in Canada, it is unusual for fires 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 the way.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed climate change. “These fires are affecting daily routines, lives and livelihoods, as well as air quality,” Trudeau tweeted.

Some of the worst fires broke out in the eastern province of Quebec, and more than 11,000 people had to evacuate their homes in Quebec.

The wildfire season started unusually early in Alberta last month and burned a record area, and Nova Scotia continues to battle its biggest fire ever,

In parts of British Columbia’s Pacific province, which is facing the second largest wildfire on record, temperatures were forecast to reach 33 Celsius (91 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, before thunderstorms and heavy rains arrived on Friday.

Rob Schweitzer, executive director of BC Wildfire, said lightning strikes could start more fires in forests as dry as the Gamas, and the outcome will depend on the amount of rainfall that comes with the storms.

“When you get 150 or 200 strikes in one day from lightning going through the province, it’s impossible to have enough resources to suppress them all,” he said.

Wildfires have subsided in Alberta, the center of Canada’s oil and gas industry, but more than 3,000 people remain under evacuation orders and heat warnings are in effect in the province’s south.

Smoke forecast website BlueSky Canada showed smoke from the wildfire spreading across much of the country Thursday. Smoke will intensify in Ottawa, Toronto, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and remain thick in other cities along the East Coast of the United States, including New York.

Reporting by Nia Williams in British Columbia; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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