It's not even the first day of summer yet, and already the number of fires in 2012 compared to last year has more than doubled, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources.
"An Arizona wildfire whipped up by winds and dry conditions threatened to trigger
more evacuations on Sunday, just as firefighters were nearly done battling the
biggest of four blazes in the state.
Fires in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado have forced the evacuation of
several small towns and torched more than 65 square miles (168 square km) of
forest, brush and grass in the U.S. Southwest."
"UPDATE at 9:59 p.m. PDT, May 17, 2012
After CAL FIRE said the spread had been stopped in the afternoon, strong winds caused the fire to escape containment and at about 7 p.m. PDT the US Forest Service sent seven engines, a water tender, and misc. staff to the fire. At 8 p.m. CAL FIRE said the fire on the U.S. side of the border had grown to 100 acres and was10% contained."
A wildfire on the hills near this oceanside city was only 10 percent contained on Thursday, and firefighters struggled to pen in the flames, which had destroyed 75 houses since they began on Tuesday.
We better get used to wildfires we cannot control.
"Slave Lake is not a one-off. We're going to see more communities at risk in the future, whether it's Quebec or Ontario or Manitoba or BC," says Mike Flannigan, a professor with the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta. "We've seen the fires in Kamloops and Kelowna back in 2003 and now 2011 in Slave Lake." Those fires moved with a speed and intensity that caught firefighters off guard and proved impossible to contain. They were cousins to the so-called "mega-fires" that tore through Australia in 2009 and Russia in 2010, devastating huge regions and killing or injuring hundreds of people.
The trends of climate change are disturbingly consistent: the atmosphere is warming, the climate is changing and we are largely responsible though our burning of fossil fuels. Scientists say as the climate warms we'll experience more extreme weather events, leading not only to droughts and forest fires but to floods. Fire and flood are two of the apparent oxymoronic scourges related to climate change; Slave Lake was the unfortunate victim of both last year.
"This is only going to continue," says Flannigan. "I would argue that it's one of the first early signs that climate change is happening.""
Perhaps someone should inform the Right Honorable Stephen Harper.