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Hundreds of Wildfires Rage Across the Canadian Wilderness

An alarm bell for extreme weather driven by climate change.

By Cassidy Ward
A wildfire

To be human is to walk hand in hand with fire. Learning to manipulate fire was one of our first and most important innovations, and we’ve been fascinated by flames ever since. Fire has even made its way into our stories, either as a source of inspiration and power or as a mortal threat. We fight it to save lives in Chicago Fire and use it fight evil in Firestarter: Rekindled. In Catching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games (streaming now on Peacock), fire is a symbol of revolution and rebellion.

In our fictions and in our lives, fire is a source of comfort and warmth when it’s safely contained, but capable of immeasurable destruction when let loose. That’s a lesson North America is learning in the real world, unfortunately,  as more than 600 wildfires rage across the Canadian wilderness.

The Worst Canadian Wildfire Season on Record

Wildfire smoke is draped across large parts of North America as it drifts southward from wildfires dotted across Canada. At the time of writing, there are 632 active wildfires spread out across the nation of Canada, many of which are too large and too out of control to manage.

RELATED: A Song of Ice and Fire: How Shrinking Arctic Ice Worsens Wildfires

Firefighters from at least 10 countries have joined the fight, including representatives from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Costa Rica, France, and the European Union, according to a tweet from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).

With so many fires burning across such a wide area, and limited resources, firefighting authorities in Canada have had to triage which fires to combat and which to leave alone. That might sound like a strange decision, but much of Canada is uninhabited and difficult to reach. Authorities are focusing their efforts on fires which present a danger to people, property, or infrastructure.

“There’s always been fires Canadian fire managers don’t fight. It’s expensive to do so, ecologically undesirable, and kind of just messing with nature. The smoke is a problem but even if we wanted to do something about it, it wouldn’t really be clear how to do so. You’re talking about huge areas where there’s no road access, no communities in some cases,” said Daniel Perrakis, a fire scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, via CNN.

The Cause of Canada’s Wildfires

The hundreds of currently active fires represent only a small portion of the total fires which have scorched the Canadian landscape this year. So far this year, more than 3,300 fires have burned more than 8.5 million hectares of forest land, according to the CIFFC’s wildfire dashboard.

All of these blazes, all at the same time, have also fanned the flames of conspiracy theorists who have suggested they are the result of a coordinated government attack. Satellite images revealed that a handful of fires appeared to begin at approximately the same time sparking claims that they were intentionally started using “directed energy weapons.” For the record, every weapon is a directed energy weapon, but we digress. The conspiracy is that the Canadian government is using invisible lasers or something to trigger a coordinated wildfire attack across large swaths of North America for… reasons?

Climate experts, however, have been warning of precisely this outcome for years. Mild winters reducing snowpack, hot dry summers, and a corresponding increased frequency of lightning strikes are a perfect recipe for wildfires. And when you have several new fires popping up every day, thousands already this year and counting, that’s more than enough to explain a weird statistical anomaly of a handful of fires appearing to start at roughly the same time.

Chicago FireFirestarter: Rekindled, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire are now streaming on Peacock.