A baking Western Canada is on fire once again, following droughts and high temperatures.
A week ago I took the bus from Vancouver to Calgary, snaking our way through scores of active and out of control fires.
The route also follows the construction of the Transmountain Pipeline which scars the mountainsides (below). Canadian Government-funded, the pipeline will increase exports from Alberta’s tar sands, one of the planet’s dirtiest sites for oil extraction.
Oil is burnt, altering the air and ultimately contributing to the toasting of landscape. For hundreds of miles the sky is sickly brown with smoke and dust. You don’t “catch a breath” at truckstops: the air is oppressive to breath.
A truck driver catches our eye and winds down his window. “You guys aren’t from around here are you?” We ask him about the smoke, turns out he is very knowledgable: “Oh it’s real sad. You know, there are over 300 forest fires in BC alone?” (below, Credit: BC Wildfire Service)
South of Kamloops, British Columbia, we see flames visible from the road (above, left, Credit: James Bethell). At Shuswap smoke envelops the valley as firefighting planes collect water from the lake (above, right). I later find out both fires have been burning for over a month.
Local newsheets are full of stories about the fires. Tales of heroics. Debates about how to manage drying forests and vulnerable homes. Promoting fire preparedness. Fundraising. Call outs for volunteers. (below, left)
In Banff, Alberta, the fire hall sells t-shirts to raise funds (above, right) as tourists continue to crowd beauty spots like Lake Louise: no-one seems to acknowledge that the views are spoilt by ash-filled skies. (below)
Justin Trudeau promises that Canada’s new oil pipeline will be ready for the new year. “We are confident that the business case for the Trans Mountain pipeline remains solid”, he said.
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