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Wildfires spark mass evacuations in Canada, Greece and Canary Islands

Wildfires spark mass evacuations in Canada, Greece and Canary Islands

Firefighters are frantically dousing blazes threatening villages in Greece, major cities in Canada and the Spanish island of Tenerife in the Canary islands.

The Tenerife fire was deliberately set, authorities said Sunday.

A wildfire outside the Greek town of Alexandroupolis in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border, has forced more than a dozen villages to evacuate, eight of them Saturday and five more Sunday. No one was seriously injured, but numerous homes were destroyed over the weekend, officials said.

About 200 firefighters and 16 aircraft were battling the blazes, which were spurred by strong winds. Volunteers and police were also beating back the flames. The conditions led civil protection authorities to issue warnings of “extreme” fire risk for Monday around Athens and elsewhere in southern Greece. The fires led Turkey’s Erdine Province to close its border with Greece indefinitely at the Ipsala crossing.

An inside view of a burnt church after a wildfire in a village near the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis, Greece, on Aug. 20, 2023.

About 2,555 miles away, Canary Islands Regional President Fernando Clavijo said Sunday that the fire on Tenerife had been intentional and that three lines of investigation were open. More than 400 firefighters plus 23 helicopters and planes had started to get a handle on the out-of-control blaze by Sunday, five days after it started. Improved weather conditions also helped.

More than 12,000 people had been forced from their homes and the fire had scorched 29,000 acres of pine forest and scrubland, Tenerife Gov. Rosa Davila and emergency officials said Sunday. Davila added that no one was injured and that no houses were lost in the worst fire Tenerife has seen in decades. The blaze still threatens 11 mountain towns and has hurt air quality in 19 town areas.

Across the Atlantic, in northwestern Canada, the Northwest Territories capital of Yellowknife has been almost completely evacuated as most of its 20,000 residents fled the encroaching flames. That wildfire is one of 237 burning in the Northwest Territories.

Smoke from the McDougall Creek wildfire fills the air and nearly blocks out the sun as people take in the view of Okanagan Lake from Tugboat Beach, in Kelowna, British Columbia, on Aug. 18, 2023.

Kelowna, British Columbia, saw firefighters fending off flames outside the 150,000-population city about 90 miles north of the United States. There are more than 380 blazes across British Columbia alone, 150 of which were still burning out of control Sunday.

Climate change may be playing a role in how fierce the fires are.

In Greece, destructive wildfires are seasonal, but officials there and elsewhere in Europe say climate change is making fires more frequent and intense. In Tenerife, a yearslong drought enabled the arson fire to spread quickly. Likewise in Canada, the fires’ strength and frequency depend on “the interaction between the climate and the fuels,” University of British Columbia Ph.D. candidate Jen Baron told CBC News.

With News Wire Services

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