B.C. Wildfire Season Faces New Challenge In COVID-19 Pandemic

Burnt trees are pictured in front of a smoke-filled sky near Old Fort, B.C., on July 11, 2017. JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Melanie Woods, Huff Post

The novel coronavirus spread like wildfire. 

It’s hopped from country to country and city to city, exploding into a global pandemic over the course of 2020. In Canada, it’s the largest public health crisis in a lifetime, with over 60,000 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of May 4. 

But soon, health officials, governments and residents of Canada’s western provinces are going to have to contend with an annual battle on top of the chaos and public health emergency caused by the virus. 

As spring rolls into summer, forest fire season begins. 

Wildfires have become a fact of life for many residents of B.C. and Alberta in particular. While the 2019 season was quieter than usual, Western Canada was particularly hard-hit by fires in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, 2,117 fires consumed 1,354,284 hectares of land and forced 66 different evacuations in B.C. Catastrophic fires like the 2016 Fort McMurray fire have prompted massive evacuations, while it’s not uncommon for many western cities to be blanketed in a thick haze of smoke for several weeks in the summer.