A review of of the number of fires and the acreage burned for the past 30 years shows a decline in the number of fires and no discernible trend in the area burned.
The US East Coast is being engulfed in smoke from wildfires in Canada. So, of course, the American press rushes to print stores of “hazardous air contaminants.”
The air quality index, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency metric for air pollution, exceeded a staggering 400 at times in Syracuse, New York City and Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. A level of 50 or under is considered good; anything over 300 is considered “hazardous,” when even healthy people are advised to curtail outdoor physical activity.
And, of course, there was the requisite link to the “climate crisis.”
…[T]he conditions that make wildfires more intense and severe, including heat and drought, are strongly linked to human-induced changes in the climate.
Canada’s natural resources agency says climate change could potentially double the amount of area burned by the end of this century with potential economic consequences like lack of timber supply and changes in which tree species make up the majority of forests.
It turns out that the root cause of these fires may be environmental activism and policies that have hindered effective land management and brush clearing.
Some blame lax forest management, arguing that not enough controlled burns are being carried out thanks to campaigns by environmentalists.
In 2020, four scientists wrote a paper published in Progress in Disaster Science in which they said not enough money was being spent by Canada on managing forests.
‘Wildfire management agencies in Canada are at a tipping point,’ they wrote.
‘Presuppression and suppression costs are increasing but program budgets are not.’
In July 2021, the editorial board of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper warned that more needed to be done to hold controlled burns, and reduce the problem of out-of-control wildfires.
Delving deeper into the issue of Canadian wildfires, it turns out that May is the peak month for such blazes in Alberta. At those high latitudes, after very frosty winters, dead fuel from the previous year has dried out, and summer rains and new growth haven’t started. Additionally, Canada had a dry and snow-free winter.
The Canadian Department of Natural Resources offers some interesting facts about their forest fires:
- Canada has about 9% of the world’s forests. Each year over the last 25 years, about 7,300 forest fires have occurred. The total area burned varies widely from year to year, but averages about 2.5 million hectares annually.
- Only 3% of all wildland fires that start each year in Canada grow to more than 200 hectares in area. However, these fires account for 97% of the total area burned across the country.
True, it may be that 2023 will be a year with unusually high numbers of fires. Yet, a review of the number of fires and the acreage burned for the past 30 years shows a significant and continuing decline in the number of fires and no discernible trend in the area burned. The following chart is from the Canadian National Forest Database.
And while the wildfires are concerning, there have been more enormous blazes in the history of Canada. Additionally, it is being reported that one of the fires grew after “containment efforts.”
Much of the area burned so far has come about as a result of the Donnie Creek blaze, 158 kilometres north of Fort St. John in northeastern B.C.
The fire is burning over an area of 2,404.8 square kilometres as of 8 p.m. Monday, making it the second largest fire on record in the province — although not as large as the 2017 Plateau Fire near Williams Lake, an amalgamation of several smaller fires that burned a total of 5,451 square kilometres.
It’s also not as large as the 2018 Tweedsmuir complex of fires, nor the 2017 Hanceville Riske Creek complex, which burned 3,015 and 2,412 square kilometres, respectively. However, wildfire officials say because those complexes consisted of multiple fires burning in separate but nearby areas, they are not considered a single blaze.
The size of the Donnie Creek fire is comparable to the Capital Regional District, which covers much of the southern tip of Vancouver Island and is also close to the size of Metro Vancouver.
While the fire is not burning near major population centres, it has resulted in evacuation orders for a sparsely populated region primarily used by the forestry and oil and gas industry.
According to fire information officer Julia Caranci, the fire grew significantly due to two planned ignitions last week that burned a 55-kilometre portion along its southern flank in an effort to control it and create “confinement lines.”
These facts will be good to have when the eco-hysteria over these wildfires begins. Hopefully, no iconic piece of Western art or architecture will be defaced in response to the climate panic sparked by press reports about Canada’s blazes.DONATE
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