The city of Prince George, an hour after sunrise. Photo by Richard Zussman.
21 Aug 2018

The sky turns black in Western Canada as a thousand wildfires rage throughout the nation


As some of the wildfires in California is now starting to get under control, the Canadian province of British Columbia last week declared a State of Emergency as 600 wildfires are burning in the province. Many more are burning in the other Western provinces and the smoke is reaching as far 2000 miles.

Air quality in many towns are off the charts, 10 +, and people are recommended to shelter inside with doors and windows closed. In a province not used to needing air conditioning, this is difficult during the current heat wave, and many residents are suffering from burning chests are respiratory problems as they are forced to keep windows ajar to keep their homes cool.

As of Thursday, Aug. 16, there are 46 “wildfires of note” burning across B.C.

Wildfires of note are wildfires which are highly visible or which pose a potential threat to public safety.

Seven are in the Kamloops Fire Centre, which includes the Okanagan, eight in the Cariboo Fire Centre, 17 in the Southeast Fire Centre, five in the Prince George Fire Centre, eight in the Northwest Fire Centre and one in the Coastal Fire Centre.


The smoke  plume in BC seen from space. Screen shot from a CBC network news video.

The smoke  plume in BC seen from space. Screen shot from a CBC network news video. (The video report can be watched above)


Fine smoke particles are penetrating into homes with closed windows

The fine particles in the smoke is also reported to penetrate through both face masks and closed windows. Residents, especially the elderly and those at risk, are recommended to use air cleaning systems to create better indoor air quality.

The smoke production is so heavy that it is now reaching Toronto and other cities in the eastern provinces, some  3000 km / 2000 miles away.


Smoke in Fort George

The main city of Vancouver is by the coast and not anywhere near the effected area, but still a thick haze is covering the greater metropolitan area, with air pollution warnings in place in every municipality.

Unconfirmed statements on the Weather Network have claimed the air quality in BC and the neighbouring province of Alberta as "currently the worst in the world."

2017 was already a difficult wildfire season in BC, and this year is already worse due to prolonged heat waves and severe droughts in the province.


BC wildfires in August 2017

BC wildfires in August 2017



BC wildfires in August 2017

BC wildfires in August 2018

There is no significant rain in the forecast for the next two weeks, and firefighting crews are expected to be at a loss in terms of containing many of the wildfires throughout the province.

International help arrived last week, including firefighting crews from Mexico, Australia and New Zeeland.


A black sky in the middle of the day in Prince George.

According to Global News, there are 564 active fires burning across B.C. with the danger rating risen to ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ in virtually every part of the province.

More than 435,000 hectares have burned so far. There are 1,500 properties under evacuation order and 9,000 properties under evacuation alert. This means 3,050 people are on evacuation order with 18,720 on evacuation alert.

The cost of fighting the fires this year, to date, has now reached $204 million. Currently, the province says more than 3,372 firefighters and contractors are actively engaged in fighting fires in all fire regions of the province.

This includes 1,427 B.C. contract personnel, as well as 436 out-of-province personnel from Alberta, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand. The federal government is also sending 200 army personnel into B.C. along with heavy lift aircraft to help move crews and supplies. A look at the wildfires burning August 2017 and August 2018.