Storms across the country could bring much-needed rain, but also the risk of powerful winds and lightning, as Canada experiences its worst wildfire season of the 21st century.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair announced a grim milestone Monday, saying more than 47,000 square kilometres have burned so far this year, with 431 wildfires currently burning across Canada.
Quebec’s public security minister said a rainy forecast in that province was bringing hope for progress in the battle against the blazes, as more than 7,200 people remain out of their homes due to wildfires.
François Bonnardel said rain showers and cooler temperatures should be moving into northwestern Quebec.
Bonnardel said the fire effort is being bolstered by the arrival this week of two contingents of American firefighters, with more reinforcements from Spain and Portugal expected to arrive Wednesday.
Elsewhere, another storm is forecast to move into northeastern British Columbia where officials describe a “volatile and rapidly evolving” wildfire situation.
Environment Canada said a system could dump up to 25 millimetres of rain over the parched Peace River region, but would likely be followed by thunderstorms and winds gusting to 60 kilometres per hour.
Hundreds of people have either been forced from their homes or are under an evacuation alert as the 4,660-square-kilometre Donnie Creek blaze continues to rage, having grown to be the second largest wildfire ever recorded in the province.
The same weather system prompted severe thunderstorm watches for a large part of southeastern B.C., a wind warning for the west side of Vancouver Island and special weather statements for most other central and southern regions.
That includes the eastern Vancouver Island area where a small but aggressive fire burns out of control on steep hills above Highway 4, indefinitely closing the only paved link to Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet.
In Alberta, a fire continues to threaten the community of Edson, where 8,400 residents remain under an evacuation order issued Friday.
A massive fire in Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, remains out of control, although officials say the 235-square-kilometre Barrington Lake wildfire is no longer growing.
Teams with the province’s Department of Natural Resources will be flying over the fire in southwest Nova Scotia this week and will use infrared scanners to detect areas where firefighters should be dispatched.
The department said firefighting teams are on the ground walking through the area, kicking over rocks and examining stumps.
Spokesman Dave Steeves said it’s monotonous work, but it’s key to avoiding an ongoing threat to the southern part of the province.
About 5,000 firefighting personnel from multiple countries have been deployed across Canada to help battle the flames, and hundreds more are expected to arrive from Chile, Costa Rica, Spain and Portugal in the coming days.