Thousands of people have been asked to evacuate due to wildfires in British Columbia, Canada.


image source, Courtesy of Alberta Wildfire

image caption, Smoke rises from a wildfire near Fort McMurray.

Thousands of Canadians have been ordered to evacuate their homes due to the threat of wildfires in Fort Nelson, British Columbia.

The fire started Friday night and officials described it as “exhibiting extreme fire behavior.”

The wildfires also prompted evacuation warnings and orders in neighboring Alberta.

The Canadian government has warned that this year's weather conditions will mean the country is at a higher risk of wildfires.

The Parker Lake fire, as it is called by the British Columbia Wildfire Service (BCWS), was 8sq km (3 sq mi) in size by Saturday morning after growing rapidly overnight.

About 3,000 people were ordered to evacuate at Fort Nelson, about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) northeast of Vancouver, BC.

Rob Fraser, mayor of the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, told CBC News that the fire started when strong winds knocked over a tree that hit a power line and caught fire.

“And then by the time our firefighters were able to get down there, the wind had enveloped it in a fire that they couldn't handle with the equipment we had,” Mr Fraser said.

Strong winds and dry conditions are making the fire difficult to fight, according to BCWS.

As of Saturday, the fire was being tackled by nine helicopters as well as ground crews and a structural protection specialist, whose job it is to protect structures affected by wildfires.

In Alberta, people in the Grand Prairie region are under evacuation warnings and some have been asked to evacuate due to a fire burning 4 km east of the township of TeePee Creek in the province's northwest.

Residents of Fort McMurray have also been told to prepare to evacuate as an uncontrollable fire burns 25 kilometers southwest of the city.

Last year was a devastating year for Canadian wildfires, with 15 million hectares (37 million acres) of forest burned – the deadliest season in the country's history.

Eight firefighters died and nearly 230,000 people were displaced from their homes.

An update from Environment Canada this week predicts challenging weather conditions that could lead to another difficult wildfire season ahead.

Warmer spring and summer temperatures “may increase the risk and severity of both natural and human-caused wildfires,” officials said.

A warmer-than-normal winter that left little snow on the ground also exacerbated drought in many areas.

Globally, last year was the warmest on record. It was driven by human-caused warming, but also boosted by a natural weather system called El Niño.

Fires occur naturally in many parts of the world, including Canada.

But according to the United Nations Climate Change Agency, climate change is creating the weather conditions needed for wildfires to spread.

Extreme and prolonged heat draws more moisture from the soil and plants.

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