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Are wildfires the new normal? Alberta fires point to trend, says expert

Last Updated May 25, 2019 at 7:18 pm MDT

EDMONTON – While the large wildfire near High Level is not unheard of, it speaks to a trend according to an environmental expert and author.

Edward Struzik says the massive fires we’ve seen in recent years are becoming the new normal. Since the 70s, Struzik says the number of wildfires has doubled since more people are spending time in forested areas.

“Especially in western Canada, humans cause nearly half the fires in all of Canada,” said Struzik, with Queens University and author of Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future. Factor number two in this trend is climate change.

“We’re seeing about a 1.7-degree increase in temperature and as the forest gets hotter and drier it’s more likely to burn. And with every degree increase in temperature, you get about 12 per cent more lightning.”

Struzik says emergency management crews need to start planning for wildfires as they would for other major weather events.

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“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 growing fire near High Level is still out of control. People who have fled their homes as the fire creeps closer have been told to expect to be out of their houses for a while yet.

Firefighters from across the country have flown to the province’s northwest to help battle the blaze.