Thursday, July 15th 2021, 9:30 am - 'The heat conditions this year have been something that we've never seen'
A mix of record-breaking hot, dry weather and a series of lightning strikes has caused dozens of fires in the Fort McMurray forest area but officials say the fires aren't threatening communities and are being managed.
There have been 79 fires this season, with 14,500 hectares — or over 35,800 acres — burned, said Lynn Daina, wildfire information officer for the Fort McMurray forest area. On average over the last five years, there would have been 58 fires at this point in the season.
Since Friday, 32 new wildfires were caused by lightning, Daina said.
"With the weather that we've had… it's easy to ignite with the lightning," she said. "The heat conditions this year have been something that we've never seen."
The recent record-breaking heat that enveloped western Canada set several records for Fort McMurray, said Alysa Pederson, meteorologist with Environment Canada.
June 2021 was the warmest June on record for Fort McMurray. On June 30, temperatures in Fort McMurray hit 40.1 C — the hottest the community has seen.
The forecast for the next few weeks shows above-average temperatures too, said Pederson.
There has also been a lack of precipitation. Last spring was the fifth-driest ever in the area, said Pederson.
Normally 73 mm of precipitation falls in June, but this year only 40.3 mm fell, she said.
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WILDFIRES NOT THREATENING RESIDENTS, OIL OPERATIONS
The current number of fires is a "bit above average," said Daina.
There are currently 42 active fires in the area, including several deemed out of control. Among them are a 66-hectare fire is less than 10 kilometres east of the Imperial Oil facility north of Fort McMurray, and a 50-hectare fire about 30 kilometres east of Fort McKay.
None of the fires are threatening any communities so far, but several are being watched, Daina said.
There are currently 76 firefighters and staff, 13 helicopters and two air tankers working on controlling the fires.