As anyone west of Saskatchewan is already well aware, a substantial chunk of Canada is on fire right now. There are more than 500 active fires in B.C. alone, and the season has already claimed enough forest to cover 10 Torontos.
B.C. is under a state of emergency and whole communities in the B.C. interior are under evacuation alerts. Most Westerners, however, are experiencing the fires second-hand; as a mysterious and choking haze that has suddenly delivered Beijing-levels of pollution to what are normally some of the world’s most pristine natural landscapes.
Below, scenes from a region utterly choking on its own smoke.
The Canadian Press/Jason Franson
This is Edmonton on the morning of Aug. 15, when the city awoke to a thick haze that effectively turned everything into a washed-out 1970s snapshot. With this much concentrated smoke, the entire city had a whiff of campfire odour to it; not to mention much more on-street coughing than usual.
Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press
And yet, Edmonton has nothing on parts of B.C. that have effectively been plunged into darkness. This is a photo of Prince George taken just after 10 a.m. on Friday. Note that the streetlights remain on. Amazingly, Prince George is still relatively far away from the nearest fire. While one of the epicentres of the B.C. fires is located just west of the city, there are still more than 40 km separating Prince George and the nearest patch of scorched earth.
Streetlights have been on for the last 4 hours @UNBC. Wildfires have turned day into night #BCwildfire pic.twitter.com/o28V56pmps
— Brian (@brianmenounos) August 17, 2018
Another dystopic view from Prince George. This is from the campus of the University of Northern British Columbia, where streetlights would have been lit all day. Right now, B.C. is not only experiencing some of the worst air quality in its history, but some of the worst air quality of anywhere on the planet. Over the weekend, it was more dangerous to breathe air in Prince George than in Mumbai, India.
This is the sun setting over Calgary on Aug. 9. The sun, normally an oppressively hot orb for Albertans in August, has been transformed into a blood-red afterthought. While we 21st century humans may see midday darkness as a bizarre but explainable curiosity, it was once cause to suspect the approach of Armageddon. In 1780, massive forest fires in what is now Ontario caused night to fall over much of New England for more than 24 hours. In the Connecticut assembly, there was serious talk that they should adjourn and return to their families in preparation for the Day of Judgment.
The Canadian Press/HO-Banff Photography-Craig Douce
This is Vermillion Lakes just outside Banff. Normally a stunning palette of blues and greens, the smoke has turned any photo into a sepia-toned snapshot largely devoid of detail. Ironically, many visitors to the park this August will have left their apartments in …read more