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⁠What is Canada’s 2024 wildfire outlook? Ottawa to give update

Wildfire season in Alberta and British Columbia are off to an early start and the federal government on Thursday will provide an update on what the nationwide picture is expected to look like in 2024 after the devastating impact of fires last year.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson will hold a joint press conference on Thursday to discuss the wildfire outlook for the season.

Last year, Canadian wildfires burned 18.5 million hectares of land, leaving behind the worst wildfire season ever recorded, and surpassing the previous record of 7.6 million hectares scorched in 1989.

Those fires drove nearly a quarter increase in the loss of the world’s tree cover, and put millions of people across Canada and the United States under air quality warnings throughout the summer as the fires raged.

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Click to play video: '‘Unsafe to be outdoors’: Wildfire smoke sparks air quality alerts for millions in Canada, U.S.'

‘Unsafe to be outdoors’: Wildfire smoke sparks air quality alerts for millions in Canada, U.S.

B.C. and Alberta, where wildfire season began early, will likely be a key focus. At least one fire was already listed as out of control and continuing to grow in the Quesnel area in B.C.’s Interior as of last month.

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The B.C. Wildfire Service reported multiple wildfires south of Quesnel and east of Vanderhoof as dry conditions helped fuel the blazes.

Parts of British Columbia will likely enter “unfamiliar territory” with drought if officials see another hot, dry summer, says the head of the province’s River Forecast Centre.

Dave Campbell says persistent drought conditions in B.C. stretch back to 2022, so the province is heading into this summer with “multi-year” precipitation deficits.

Satellite photos show rivers across the province running narrower and shallower than at the same time in 2023, which went on to be one of B.C.’s driest years on record.

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With average snowpack levels lower than ever recorded in B.C. this past winter, Campbell says he’s expecting cumulative effects that could include water scarcity and other challenges.

“We know these antecedent conditions that we’re coming into this year are much more challenging than we started out last year with,” he said in a recent interview.

— with files from Canadian Press

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