Abnormally hot weather is forecast for the remainder of the summer, say experts from Environment and Climate Change Canada, who warn that an already unprecedented wildfire season will likely intensify in the coming months. And they caution that conditions now seen as anomalous will become typical.

Meteorologist Armel Castellan and research scientist Nathan Gillett provided a seasonal outlook for Canada’s summer season on Tuesday. They said human-induced climate change will have wide-ranging effects including growing economic losses, social disruption, environmental damage and loss of life. And they reiterated that it is a key influence on the wildfires raging from coast to coast and, in the long term, will increase the frequency of serious heat waves.

There are more than 400 wildfires currently burning across Canada, half of which are considered out of control. More than 5.9 million hectares of land has been scorched – the worst in the country’s recorded history – with four months of wildfire season still left. Meanwhile, flooding is affecting some provinces in areas that were threatened by fire just days ago.

“Potential consequences of this seasonal forecast include high frequency of wildfires that may exceed local management capacity, evacuations due to fire and poor air quality from smoke, potential for heat waves that create health risks and contribute to mortality for vulnerable communities, as well as the potential for continued drought conditions,” Mr. Castellan said.

Smoke from the blazes will also continue to decrease air quality, which federal health officials warned of during a briefing on Monday. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam urged individuals to check the air quality health index and take precautions, such as the use of indoor air filtration systems and wearing masks outdoors, when the air is hazardous to breathe.

Dr. Tam noted that wildfire smoke can contain microscopic particles that, when inhaled, can enter the bloodstream, leading to potential health problems. There’s growing concern over the implications of such exposure as wildfire season becomes longer and more severe in a growing number of regions. Some studies have linked long-term exposure to fine particle inhalation to an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

“No matter where you live in Canada, you can be affected by wildfire smoke,” Dr. Tam said. “In addition, wildfires often occur during extreme summer heat. Each of these events can pose a significant threat to our health, especially when combined.”

In Quebec, there are more than 100 forest fires burning. Residents who were allowed home on Sunday in the northern town of Lebel-sur-Quévillon have been warned that they could be forced to evacuate again should the wildfire situation worsen. The town’s mayor, Guy Lafrenière, said smoky conditions are intense and people should wear N95 masks to protect themselves.

Further west, in British Columbia, the Donnie Creek wildfire burning in the northeast has grown into the largest blaze ever recorded in the province at around 5,400 square kilometres in size.

“The fire danger rating for this part of the North Peace remains high to extreme despite rain being received in various parts of the region in recent days. This means forest fuels are very dry and the Donnie Creek wildfire can spread easily, burn vigorously, and challenge fire suppression efforts,” the BC Wildfire Service said this week.

Another out-of-control fire is creeping closer to the Alaska Highway and nearby residents are under an evacuation order. The BC Wildfire Service said that fire is expected to continue growing throughout the summer and into the fall.

In Alberta, residents are dealing with fire, rain and snow. Some residents in Yellowhead County, a municipal district west of Edmonton, are fleeing their homes for the third time, but this time it’s because of heavy rainfall instead of fires. They were given the green light to return home just days ago.

An evacuation order was issued on Monday for residents in Lower Robb after the county declared a state of local emergency because of overland flooding. Chief administrative officer Luc Mercier said in an online video update that numerous roads were inundated with water and warned people to be cautious of washouts.

The rain has helped firefighters in their battle against the massive wildfires that forced more than 8,000 residents of Edson and Yellowhead County to evacuate, but Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara said it’s far too much, too fast. “We asked for rain and, boy, did we get it,” he said, becoming emotional as he noted how difficult the past few weeks have been.

Edson has declared a state of local emergency.

Mr. Mercier said the nearby hamlet of Cadomin, meanwhile, was dealing with a power outage after heavy snow knocked down transmission lines. Residents could be without electricity for several days, he added. Further west, significant rain and snow on Monday closed several roads in Jasper National Park, and Parks Canada said there was the potential for avalanches and mudslides.

The Globe and Mail, June 20, 2023