Wildfire season roars to life in parts of B.C. and Alberta

The 2024 wildfire season roared to life across Western Canada this weekend as crews battled multiple out-of-control blazes

Multiple fires broke out across Western Canada this weekend amid a persistent and severe drought affecting British Columbia and Alberta.

B.C. fire crews are working to extinguish several out-of-control fires in the Cariboo Fire Centre, while officials issued an evacuation alert for some neighbourhoods in northern Alberta amid a new out-of-control blaze that sparked near Fort McMurray on Sunday.

CANADA'S WILDFIRES: Visit The Weather Network's wildfire hub to keep up with the latest on the active start to wildfire season across Canada.

Several B.C. fires burning out of control

The B.C. Wildfire Service reported an out-of-control wildfire on Saturday about 45 km south of Quesnel.

BC Wildfires April 20 2024

The fire quickly spread from 50 hectares on Saturday to more than 1,600 hectares by Sunday evening. Officials suspect the blaze, named the Burgess Creek Fire, was sparked by human activities.

DON’T MISS: Out of control, held, out — What the stages of wildfire mean

Provincial fire officials reported more than 120 active wildfires across B.C. by Sunday evening, the vast majority of which are considered ‘holdover’ fires still smouldering from the previous season.

Seven of the ongoing fires are considered out of control, while three more are being held by crews.

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Evacuation alert issued for community in Alberta

Crews in neighbouring Alberta responded to a wildfire spreading near Fort McMurray late Sunday afternoon. The out-of-control blaze southeast of the city is one of more than a dozen active wildfires in the province that crews are working to extinguish.

Alberta Wildfires April 21 2024

Local officials issued an evacuation alert for the Saprae Creek Estates “due to the potential of the nearby wildfire spreading towards the community,” the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo posted on its website Sunday.

Officials expect long, intense wildfire season this year

This weekend’s fires are the beginning of what could turn into a long and intense season across Western Canada. Canada as a whole entered this spring with a worse and more widespread drought than we saw ahead of the historic 2023 wildfire season.

B.C. Drought Monitor April 21 2024

RELATED: Officials warn of potential for 'catastrophic' wildfire season

Drought covers most of B.C. this spring, with the most severe deficits found throughout the interior and toward northern reaches of the province.

Kamloops, B.C., has only seen 9.9 mm of rain since the beginning of March—a far cry from the typical 27 mm they’d record through March and April.

Prairies Drought Monitor March 31 2024

The situation isn’t much better next door in Alberta, where ‘extreme’ to ‘exceptional’ drought conditions cover a significant swath of the province.

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A historically warm winter kept snowpack to a bare minimum across much of the Prairies this season, further exacerbating the ongoing drought. Snowpack plays an important role in keeping soils and vegetation moist ahead of the wildfire season.

Making matters worse, firefighters may have a more difficult time battling large blazes in northern Alberta where bodies of water from which firefighting aircraft typically source their water are still frozen over.

WATCH NOW: A drier spring forecast raises concerns for droughts and wildfires

Header image courtesy of Jaclyn Whittal.