This handout photo, courtesy of BC Wildfire Service, shows two plumes from the Long Loch wildfire (British Columbia), on June 30, 2021.
Ottawa was ready to dispatch military aircraft and other assistance Friday to evacuate cities and fight wildfires that erupted in western Canada due to a record-breaking heat wave.
According to wildfire officials in British Columbia, there were at least 152 active fires, with 89 of these sparked within the last two days. Lightning strikes were responsible for most of the fires.
The fires were found north of Kamloops (350 km (217 mi) northeast of Vancouver).
Global warming is believed to be the cause of the heat wave that has caused extreme heat alerts in areas home to millions of people. More than 700 people have died in Canada, and 16 Americans have been affected by the heat.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, met with an incident response team that included several ministers on Friday afternoon. He stated that he had spoken to British Columbia's premier and local mayors, as well as indigenous chiefs from communities under threat.
He said, "We will help," at a news conference.
The response group said it would establish an operations center in Edmonton where the armed forces can provide logistical support. To aid, military aircraft were also deployed.
Bill Blair, Public Safety Minister, stated that "the dry conditions and extreme heat in British Columbia were unprecedented." These wildfires are a sign that we are at the beginning of what promises be a long, challenging summer.
About 1,000 people fled British Columbia's wildfires. Authorities are looking for those who may have been missing.
Lytton is 250 km (155 miles) northeast Vancouver. It was evacuated Wednesday night due to a sudden and rapid spread of the fire. Brad Vis, a local MP, said that nearly 90 percent of the village had been set on fire.
The village had just set a Canadian record for temperature at 49.6 degrees Celsius (121 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.
John Horgan, provincial premier, stated that "I cannot stress enough the extreme fire risk at this time in nearly every part of British Columbia" and urged British Columbians not to ignore officials in their communities.
This handout photo, courtesy of BC Wildfire Service, shows the Sparks Lake wildfire in British Columbia. It was seen from the air on June 29, 20,21.
On Friday, the heat wave continued to sweep central Canada. Heat wave warnings were also issued for British Columbia and parts of the Northwest Territories as well as northern Ontario.
Environment Canada warned that a "dangerous long-term heat wave" will continue and that it will bring "very high temperatures over the next few days," in bulletins to British Columbia.
"The heat wave's duration is worrying as there is not much relief at night due to the high overnight temperatures."
Late Friday, the British Columbia provincial medical examiner's Office reported that there were 719 deaths over the last week. This is "three times" more than the average number of deaths during this time period under normal circumstances.
"It is believed that the extreme weather BC experienced in the last week is a significant contributor to the increased death rate," Lisa Lapointe (province's chief coroner) stated in a statement.
Jeff Chapman, a Lytton resident, told the CBC that he saw his parents die in the fire which engulfed the village.
The elderly couple fled to their backyard for shelter from the flames and smoke. Chapman fled nearby railway tracks for safety. They had only minutes to react. He said that he could see the fires sweep through the town and decimate most of it from this vantage point.
Trudeau said during his press conference, "Today's thoughts are mostly with family members that are grieving and that are facing terrible losses."
British Columbia warned Friday that flooding could result from melting mountain snow caps or glaciers under the heat dome. This happens when hot air is trapped beneath high pressure fronts heating the ground.
Further south, Washington and Oregon in the USA have been experiencing record-breaking temperatures this week.
Friday saw hundreds of firefighters rush to control three wildfires that had ravaged nearly 40,000 acres in drought-hit Northern California.
Evacuation orders were placed along Shasta Lakea hotspot for boating and camping 160 km south of the Oregon borderas high winds and soaring temperatures spurred blazes at an early stage of the region's fire-season.
An AFP photographer stated that around 40 structures were damaged, with at least half a dozen homes in the vicinity of Lakehead.
California saw more than 500 lightning strikes in the past 24 hours. This is threatening to create even more fires.