Cool rain to make ‘big difference’ in Canada wildfire fight
OTTAWA — A cool rain is coming — the first in weeks — and Canadian authorities said Saturday they hope it makes a “big difference” in Alberta, the western province battling wildfires after a hot, dry start to a holiday weekend.
Officials were on high alert after fires displaced tens of thousands of people and scorched more than 800,000 hectares (two million acres) of forests and grasslands in recent weeks.
The Alberta Wildfire agency’s Christie Tucker said a few “scattered showers and thunderstorms” had been spotted in parts of the province earlier in the day.
“As we look ahead to the week, our forecasters are tracking a front moving into the province from tomorrow (Sunday), which should bring much-needed cooler temperatures, humidity and even rain,” she told a news conference.
That should last “a few days,” she said.
“A lot depends on where exactly that rain falls…. But in the area we’re expecting it, it is forecast to make a big difference” for more than 2,500 firefighters battling 87 blazes — including 23 out of control — as of late Saturday.
Officials would prefer a longer, steady rain that soaks into the forest. “That will help us more than a short burst that would bring lightning and could spark a new wildfire,” she said.
More than 10,000 Albertans remained under evacuation orders Saturday, down from a peak of almost 30,000.
Cyndee Evans, head of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, said the wildfire situation “remains volatile.”
Temperatures hit 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), above seasonal norms. And rescuers say the long weekend in May is often when human-caused forest fires occur.
Ahead of Canadian campers’ annual spring pilgrimage to the outdoors, authorities closed 12 local parks.
Smoke from the wildfires has blanketed western Canada, leading to warnings about poor air quality posing risks to health.
In recent years western Canada has been hit repeatedly by extreme weather, the intensity and frequency of which have increased due to global warming.