January 11, 2016 - CANADA - Wildfires scorched a record amount of Canada's national parks last year — the latest in a number of long, hot summers that have almost entirely depleted Parks Canada's firefighting reserve.
"We had a very busy fire year," said director of fire management Jeff Weir. "We had more wildfires than normal and those fires burned larger areas than normal."
The agency's annual fire report recorded 122 wildfires in 2015 that burned through 4,600 square kilometres — seven times the area of the city of Toronto.
The yearly average is 82, and, in 2014, the amount of park land burned in non-prescribed fires was 3,000 square kilometres.
Most of the damage in 2015 occurred in a single park. Fire licked through 3,700 square kilometres of Wood Buffalo on the boundary between Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
Parks Canada reserves about $8 million a year to fight fires. Any money not spent is rolled into a reserve to be used in busy seasons.
Lightning strikes on tinder-dry forests made 2015 the third big fire year in a row. Firefighting cost $14 million last summer and the reserve is pretty much depleted, Weir said.
"That means that next year we'll get our $8-million allocation and, if we exceed that, we will have to look at other funding sources within Parks Canada to cover the cost.
"It's not a job we can walk away from."
If it becomes necessary, the money would probably come from funds earmarked for other ecological restoration projects, Weir suggested. - National Post.