Wildfires in Canada have burned an enormous swath of land and forced thousands from their homes, prompting firefighters from across the globe to descend on the country to help douse the flames.
The scorched area is 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) in size, or the equivalent of more than 5 million football fields, government officials told reporters Thursday. That’s more than 10 times the average area typically burned by this time of year over the past decade.
Fires are raging from west to east coasts — from British Columbia to Nova Scotia — and have prompted about 28,000 Canadians to evacuate.
“It is a simple fact that Canada is experiencing the impact of climate change, including more frequent and more extreme wildfires. Canadians are seeing and feeling personally the effects of these fires,” Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said.
The unusually early start to the wildfire season in the northern nation has put federal and provincial officials on high alert and raised fears about fire-fighting resources being exhausted before the summer even officially begins. To that end, Wilkinson and his fellow ministers sought to assure Canadians that they were preparing not only for a long, hot, dry summer, but also for the impacts of climate change in the future.
Hundreds of firefighters from the US, Australia and New Zealand have already arrived in Canada to help with the containment effort, while some 200 from South Africa are on their way. Mexican crews will likely soon be enlisted as well, officials said.
There have been 1,000 fires so far this year, with about 200 currently active and 82 considered out of control.
Alberta, Canada’s top oil-producing province, has been the site of some of the earliest and largest blazes. Significant amounts of oil and gas production production had to be shut down, but most of it has since restarted.
Fires in the eastern province of Nova Scotia are a growing concern for officials as about 200 homes have been lost. Blazes are also raging in nearby New Brunswick and air quality has been impacted in Newfoundland, officials said.
Overall, impacts to industry including agriculture, energy, transport and telecommunications have been minor, they said.