Satellite images capture smoke from out-of-control wildfires in Alberta
Wildfires that are burning out-of-control in western Canada are producing so much smoke that it can be seen from space.
Approximately 108 fires have erupted across Alberta leading to the evacuation of 29,000 people. A state of emergency has been declared across the province.
A satellite from the Copernicus Sentinel programme of the European Space Agency captured the huge smoke plume from the blazes on 6 May. The cloud stretches 930 miles and has reached the Arctic Circle.
Local authorities have called the fires “unprecedented” after more than 122,000 hectares were destroyed.
“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” said Alberta’s premier Danielle Smith. “We’ve declared a provincial state of emergency to protect the safety, health and welfare of Albertans.”
She noted that the province “has been experiencing a hot, dry spring and with so much kindling, all it takes is a few sparks to ignite some truly frightening wildfires.”
Strong winds are fanning the flames and have led to the evacuation of communities in Athabasca, Big Lakes, Brazeau, Grande Prairie and Yellowhead counties. Others are being warned to prepare “to evacuate on short notice”.
One video posted on social media showed a huge fire engulfing farms as water-bombing helicopters and air tankers doused the blaze.
In the town of Fox Lake nearly two dozen homes, the police station and water treatment plant were gutted by fire, authorities said.
The climate crisis is driving up temperatures around the world and leading to drier conditions, a contributing factor in larger and more intense wildfires.
Christie Tucker, from Alberta’s wildfire agency, noted that there has been significantly more wildfire activity “than we’ve certainly seen anytime in the recent past”.
Hundreds of firefighters are “working around the clock” and Alberta’s multiple oil facilities are being monitored closely, she added.
Cooler temperatures and some rain saw brief respite in some areas on Sunday but officials warned that hot and dry conditions were predicted to return within a few days.
Two out-of-control wildfires in neighboring British Columbia also caused some people to leave their homes, and officials warned that they expected high winds to cause the blazes to grow bigger in the next few days.
With The Associated Press