September 19, 2021

Burning America West Expects Worst This Weekend

The American West, already ravaged by fires, expects more forest fires. In the state of Oregon, just north of California, the Bootleg Fire, a blaze already bigger than New York City, continues to grow, and weather forecasts predict conditions for the emergence of new blazes this weekend. So far, dozens of homes have been destroyed and at least 2,000 people have had to evacuate the area in a hurry.

‘I saw the flames spreading up the side of the cliff about a mile from our house and got the call telling me to pack up and go, resident Frank Lee Smith told AFP. of Klamath County. ‘So I put what I could in the truck with the two dogs and off we went.’

The situation is likely to worsen over the weekend, despite the mobilization of nearly 2,000 firefighters. ‘We continue to use all resources, from bulldozers to water bombers, to intervene where possible,’ said Rob Allen, in charge of fire management in the area. But he predicts that the ‘hot, dry and windy conditions will worsen over the weekend’, making their task even more difficult.

‘Extreme drought’

Very close to California, the fire also threatens the electricity grid of this state and the authorities want at all costs to prevent millions of people from being plunged into darkness, as was the case in previous years when the grid was too low. voltage.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the sending of reinforcements to Oregon, while pointing to the multiple fires that California firefighters are already facing.

‘Climate change is promoting the development of increasingly dangerous and destructive fires across the American West,’ said California emergency management services. 85% of the state is also in a state of ‘extreme drought’, according to a government observatory.

To the vicious circle in which the American West is plunged this summer (repeated heatwaves and a drought that transform the area into a powder keg) should be added a new disruptive element this weekend: lightning.

‘I’m quite worried about the dry thunderstorms that could fall on Sunday and Monday,’ said Daniel Swain, climate specialist at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). These thunderstorms, not accompanied by rain, are often the cause of new fires.

Air quality alerts in Canada

The situation is not much better in neighboring Canada. On the menu, heat, fires … and toxic smoke. Air quality alerts have been issued in four provinces of the country.

‘Everything changes so quickly depending on the wind. Yesterday around 8 a.m., it was bright and sunny, and at 10 a.m. it was so smoky you could hardly see, ‘Graham Leggett, employee of the Art Gallery of Alberta, told AFP. in western Canada.

‘The smoke from forest fires is the cause of poor air quality in many communities,’ Environment Canada confirmed in a tweet on Friday.

Rory MacLean, a municipal library worker in the province of Saskatchewan, felt the effect right down his throat. ‘I grew up here, and I do not remember that there were so many days with smoke,’ he laments to AFP.

Authorities also expect high temperatures in the coming days, from Alberta to Ontario, although not as extreme as the 49.6 ° C recorded near Vancouver three weeks ago.