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Alberta’s raging wildfires cause dangerously polluted air quality, and point to a concerning global trend

The Alberta wildfires scorched over 700,000 acres of pristine forest, spawning toxic air pollution as well as highlighting a concerning global trend. Read more.

Firefighters, ground crews, air tankers, and helicopters were deployed to battle “out of control” fires in Alberta, Canada, which burned more than 700,000 acres.1

By May 31, 2019, over 644 wildfires had been recorded, forcing 11,000 people to evacuate. The Alberta fires not only ravaged millions of acres of land but also wreaked havoc on air quality far and wide. Smoke from the wildfires was so widespread that it reached parts of the southeastern US.2

 

map of Alberta Canada air pollution
Map of air pollution in Canada as reported by IQAir AirVisual (May 28, 2019, 3:00pm local time)

 

While on-the-ground forces stay vigilant in extinguishing the fires, environmental expert, Edward Struzik, warns that forest fires such as these are likely the “new normal,” urging emergency management crews to start preparing for an increase in these events in the coming years.3

Already since the 1970s, the prevalence of wildfires has doubled.4 Many suspect an increase in people enjoying forested outdoor areas, is a key variable. Struzik explains, “humans cause nearly half the fires in all of Canada.” Further exacerbating the problem are warming temperatures that contribute to drier environments.

“We need to look at fire the same way we look at tornadoes and hurricanes. We don’t even pretend to think that we can stop them from coming.”

The Alberta wildfires and similar blazes across the world are stern reminders that while we cannot prevent all fires from occurring, we can do our best to prepare for them. Check out our wildfire smoke risks and safety tips guide to help prepare for wildfire season. 

 

Article Resources

[1] Snowden W, et al. (2019, May 27). Dry, windy weather making work tough for firefighters in northern Alberta.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/wildfire-high-level-alberta-out-of-control-1.5150967

[2] Silverman, H, et al. (2019, June 4). 11,000 people have been forced to evacuate as firefighters battle wildfires in Canada.
https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/04/world/alberta-wildfires-evacuations/index.html

[3] Are wildfires the new normal? Alberta fires point to trend, says expert. (2019, May 25).
https://edmonton.citynews.ca/2019/05/25/wildfires-new-normal-trend-expert/

[4] Paratt, S. (2016, April 4). The rising cost of fires.
https://www.ualberta.ca/newtrail/spring-2016/features-dept/the-rising-cost-of-fires
 

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