Wildfire season is off to a tragic, early start in western North America. After a historic heat wave baked the Pacific Northwest earlier this week, flames have erupted across the region, including in the small village of Lytton, BC. At the beginning of the week, the village broke the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in Canada; on Wednesday night, the town was engulfed in a fast-moving wildfire.
“The whole town is on fire,” Jan Polderman, the mayor of Lytton, told CBC News. “It took a whole 15 minutes from the first sign of smoke to, all of a sudden, there being fire everywhere.”
Polderman issued an evacuation order, and residents were forced to flee for their lives as smoke and flames enveloped the town, which is located about 161 miles northeast of Vancouver. According to CBC News, about 200 Lytton residents evacuated to neighboring towns, and now efforts are underway to account for all of them.
The conditions were ripe for a blaze. Shortly before the fire, Lytton endured three consecutive days of record-smashing heat, topping out at 121 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday. The unprecedented temperatures have dried out vegetation, creating fuel for fires. Even before the Lytton fire broke out, firefighters were already battling two other nearby blazes, CBC News reports. Although the cause of the fire that swept through Lytton is still under investigation, once sparked, strong winds fanned the flames and helped it quickly grow and spread.
Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t seem to be improving: A massive portion of western Canada remains under a heat warning. Conditions aren’t much better in the States, either. The same heat wave that broke records in Canada also affected the western U.S., which is already suffering from a sustained drought, and large fires have broken out across the West. The National Interagency Fire Center reports that 44 large fires have torched over 667,000 acres from Alaska to Arizona—and it’s still early in the wildfire season. Current forecasts show that higher-than-normal temperatures will continue across much of the West.
Last year, wildfires torched millions of acres across the United States, and this year is already off to a rough start. The hot, dry weather makes wildfire prevention even more critical: Make sure you do your part by camping and recreating safely.
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