Here’s why Canadian wildfires are worse this year

Poor air quality that has been lingering in the D.C. region may not be going away anytime soon as wildfires in Canada, which have been generating huge amounts of smoke, are continuing to get worse.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, a group that helps coordinate wildfire response efforts, there have been more than 4,000 wildfires across the country so far this season.

That number is growing every day.

“We’re seeing fires burning bigger than ever before,” said Marieke deRoos, a spokeswoman with the fire centre. “We’ve seen favorable conditions for fire from coast to coast.”

There were more than 900 active fires as of Tuesday afternoon, according to deRoos.

Nearly 600 of the fires were listed as being “out of control.”

The fires have torn through about 25 million acres of land, triggering poor air quality alerts in the D.C. region and in many other parts of the U.S.

Fine particle pollution caused by smoke from the wildfires are tiny enough to get deep into the lungs and cause short-term problems, such as coughing and itchy eyes, and in the long run, can affect the lungs and heart.

“It’s not just located in one or two provinces,” explained Cormac MacSweeney, a journalist with CityNews in Canada. “We’ve had this happening across the country in every province and territory.”

MacSweeney said the fires are worse this year largely due to climate change and issues with forest management.

“All the branches and fallen trees and things like that have been sitting there,” said MacSweeney. “This natural fuel is sitting on the ground, and with climate change it’s getting drier and drier, essentially creating a tinderbox situation.”

MacSweeney said there’s an ongoing debate in the country about changing forest management policies “to try and make sure we don’t have another record wildfire season like this.”

Relief from the smoke crossing the Canadian-U.S. border won’t be immediate, experts said. Large fires in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are likely to keep churning out smoke throughout the summer and possibly into early fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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