After spreading across the eastern United States, smoke from wildfires in Canada crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached Norway, the Norwegian Institute for Climate and Environmental Research said on Friday (9).
Smoke particles were detected, albeit in low concentration, at Birkenes station, in the south of the country, institute researcher Nikolaos Evangeliou told AFP news agency. “But we don’t see an environmental problem [na Noruega] or a serious risk to health”, said the scientist, adding that the numbers in the territory vary according to the rainfall and the direction of the winds.
Before Norway, the smoke had already reached Greenland and Iceland, according to the American newspaper The New York Times. According to projections, a weak haze will continue to advance across Europe in the coming days.
In Canada, authorities consider the number of hectares burned at this time of year to be exceptional. The country has already registered more than 2,300 fires, which affected 3.8 million hectares, numbers well above the average of recent decades.
The fires spread this Friday in the province of British Columbia, in western Canada, while hundreds of fires persist on the other side of the country, in Quebec, whose smoke has settled over American cities.
The day before, about 2,500 people had to be evacuated from their homes in the community of Tumbler Ridge, in northeastern British Columbia. Authorities are now working to clear areas in neighboring Alberta. “We urge Albertans to remain diligent as hot and dry conditions are expected over the weekend,” officials wrote in a bulletin released to the population.
Temperatures in parts of British Columbia topped 30C, nearly 10C above the seasonal average. Although rains are expected in the coming days, the incidence of lightning could trigger more fires.
The smoke continues to raise health concerns for thousands of people across Canada and the eastern US, although firefighters have reported progress in containing some of the blazes in Quebec. Poor air quality is expected to persist in cities like Ottawa, Toronto, New York and Washington at least until Sunday (11), when the wind direction may change.
On Wednesday (7), New York’s air quality was ranked as the worst of any major urban area in the world, according to the IQAir World Quality Index, surpassing New Delhi, India.
Canada faces worst start to wildfire season. Nearly a third of the 427 current outbreaks are in Québec. According to provincial premier François Legault, the situation in the region remains critical but is stabilizing. Rains are expected for Monday (12) and, until then, approximately 13,500 people are prevented from returning to their homes.
While wildfires are common in Canada, it is unusual for them to occur at the same time in the east and west of the country, depleting firefighting resources. In an attempt to contain the crisis, firefighters from countries such as South Africa, Australia, USA and New Zealand were sent to Canadian territory.
On Thursday (8), President Joe Biden said he had ordered emergency agencies to respond quickly to requests for help made by the neighboring country to fight the flames. “I have directed you to respond promptly to requests for additional firefighters and more firefighting resources, such as tanker planes,” the Democrat said in a statement released by the White House.