Blazes break out in western Canada as wildfire season begins

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First responders were battling several wildfires in western Canada Monday, in an area facing extreme drought which last year saw its worst-ever fire season.

Many of the blazes broke out just in recent days, though dozens are still burning from 2023, amid government fears of another “catastrophic” summer ahead.

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In British Columbia, firefighters are focusing on the central Cariboo region, where a human-caused burn quickly spread over the weekend and is now considered out of control.

The flames covering 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) are “very indicative of the conditions we are seeing right now,” said Madison Dahl of British Columbia’s wildfire service.

“It’s incredibly dry,” Dahl said, adding that the fire was not currently threatening any infrastructure.

However, authorities have warned residents to be prepared to evacuate the area if necessary.

More than 110 wildfires are active in British Columbia, while 66 are active in the neighboring Alberta.

Melissa Story of Alberta’s wildfire service said that 36 of the province’s fires were “carry-over wildfires from the 2023 season.”

The Canadian government warned in April it was seeing “concerning” trends of above-normal temperatures and extreme drought conditions.

“With the heat and dryness across the country, we can expect that the wildfire season will start sooner and end later and potentially be more explosive,” said Harjit Sajjan, minister of emergency preparedness.

The 2023 wildfire season -- “the worst season that Canadians have ever seen,” said Sajjan -- saw eight firefighters killed and 230,000 people displaced.

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