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Canada accounted for 43% of people displaced by wildfires globally in 2023, data shows

A new report from a Swiss-based non-governmental organization says wildfires displaced 185,000 people in Canada last year, the highest number since data became available in 2008.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is a Geneva-based group that monitors global displacement due to climate change and conflict, among other things. Its 2024 Global Report on Internal Displacement calculates Canada accounted for 43 per cent of worldwide wildfire displacements in 2023.

Forty-three thousand of those people displaced from Canadian wildfires were in Alberta, and 59,000 were in British Columbia, the most in the country.

The data used was collected from multiple sources, including federal and provincial governments.

“Canada’s hottest summer in 76 years fuelled the country’s most destructive wildfire season on record in 2023, when almost seven times more land than the annual average was burnt,” reads the report. 

“The fires’ scale and impacts highlighted the need to strengthen the country’s risk reduction measures, evacuation protocols and overall disaster resilience.”

In Alberta, the UCP government’s 2024-25 budget allocates $2 billion toward an emergency contingency fund, which can be spent on wildfire response. The province’s disaster recovery program and municipal wildfire assistance program are also intended to assist with widespread disaster events.

In total, drought and wildfire expenses for the last fiscal year added up to $2.9 billion.

WATCH l Premier says safety is top priority during wildfire update from provincial officials:

‘We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep Albertans safe’: Alberta premier

20 hours ago

Duration 3:39

Premier Danielle Smith says the evacuation order in Fort McMurray brings back memories of the 2016 wildfire. But Smith assures residents that officials are monitoring the situation and will have Alberta’s back. Forestry Minister Todd Loewen announced a fire ban in the Fort McMurray and High Level forest areas.

At a wildfire update press conference on Wednesday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said the budget is a “living document” that can be altered.

“If it turns out that more money is needed, then treasury board will vote more money to have it available. You just have to make sure that people are taken care of,” said Smith.

A wildfire threatening Fort McMurray has forced more than 6,600 people from their homes as of Wednesday evening. Government financial support, including hotel and food vouchers, is available for those who qualify for it, said the premier. But she added that residents will have to face some additional spending.

“Be prepared to cover your expenses and your family’s expenses for 72 hours.”

She added that people with private insurance may also have some financial supports available to them.

‘Get ready so that you can leave as quickly as possible’

At Wednesday’s press conference, Mike Ellis, Alberta’s Minister of Public Safety, urged Albertans to remain vigilant, especially those in communities on evacuation alert.

“In case you are asked to evacuate, take this time to get ready so that you can leave as quickly as possible,” said Ellis.

“Ensure that you have your key belongings, including important travel documents and medication. Pack an emergency kit with enough food and water for a minimum of 72 hours.”

According to Canadian Red Cross spokesperson Jason Small, the organization is supporting people who evacuated from the Fort McMurray area to Edmonton, by assisting with accommodation. He says their help was requested by the City of Edmonton.

The Canadian Red Cross is used to helping with wildfire response in various ways, including with evacuation planning, said Smalls. He recommends people living near at-risk fire areas prepare disaster plans.

“Part of that is establishing what’s a safe place we can go outside in case we have to to leave, and also outside the neighbourhood,” said Small.

“Beyond that, we recommend knowing and understanding the plans for your workplace, for your school and also knowing the neighbourhood.”

Small advises people to come up with a wider neighbourhood emergency plan, too.

As of Wednesday evening, the wildfire near Fort McMurray continues to burn out of control.

Outside the evacuation zone, the rest of Fort McMurray, and some surrounding communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, remain on evacuation alert.

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