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Fire Weather | Seasonal Outlook

Officials warn of above average fire season ahead in Canada

Caroline Floyd

Friday, May 18, 2018, 2:41 PM - With spring fire activity already well underway in parts of the country, Natural Resources Canada's wildland fire researchers have a warning for Canadians: we're only at the beginning of what is forecast to be an 'above average' year for fires. Parts of the Prairies have already been classified as experiencing 'severe drought' through the spring, with places like Winnipeg reporting one of the driest springs in nearly 150 years, and wildfires already an issue in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Natural Resources Canada says that's only a taste of what's ahead.

(Related: 42 fires in 3 weeks for Manitoba)

Fire Danger is a relative index of how easy it is to ignite vegetation, how difficult a fire may be to control, and how much damage a fire may do. Image courtesy Natural Resources Canada.

(Related: Parched Prairies see extreme fire danger ratings)

"Long-range forecasts suggest that the wildland fire season may peak in July and August with warmer than normal temperatures," says Natural Resources Canada in a news release, adding, "national fire danger [will decrease] in September as temperatures return to their seasonal averages." The agency blames part of the issue on the ongoing dry weather in Manitoba, and suggests a similar increase in fire danger may occur for the rest of the Prairies and northern Ontario before summer arrives, due to the rapid change from winter to summerlike conditions. 

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Conditions are primed for fires, but it still takes a spark

One thing officials did stress was, while conditions may be favourable for fires to start, they still require a starting spark to get going, and one of the two main causes is in human hands - literally. About 8000 wildfires occur in Canada every year; 55 per cent of those are started by humans. The other primary source for wildfires in Canada is lightning.

Image courtesy Natural Resources Canada.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says Canada is about 100 fires ahead of the 10-year average for early May, according to a Global News report, with Manitoba and Saskatchewan leading the charge. Burn bans are in effect for portions of B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Residents should check their local conditions and with their provincial forest and wildfire management agency before attempting any outdoor burning.

Fires so far this year, versus 10 year seasonal average. Image courtesy Natural Resources Canada.

Watch below: Two years later - still rebuilding Fort McMurray

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