Raging wildfires: You can run, but you can’t hide

Cool Tips for a Hot Planet

By Ginny Colling

Several years ago, friends of mine sold their home in Kelowna and moved to the coast. They’d been evacuated one too many times because of nearby wildfires.

My thought at the time: So glad I don’t live in B.C.

This year we’ve seen that you can run, but you can’t hide. By the end of June, 2023 had already been declared the worst wildfire season on record in Canada, with over eight million hectares burned. Fires raged in every province and one territory, and thousands had been evacuated.

On June 7, I captured a photo of the sun: a red orb suspended in an orange-grey haze. That day the local health unit warned our air quality had reached the “high risk” level. The school board advised schools to keep kids inside. The next day a few of my intrepid fellow members of the Kawartha Cycling Club rode in the haze – wearing N95 masks.

Also on June 7, the Blue Jays opted to close the stadium dome for their game because of the smoke. Major league games were postponed in New York and Philadelphia for the same reason.

Near the end of June, Toronto for a time topped an international list of cities with the worst air quality in the world. Others that made the top 10: Chicago, Detroit, New York City – thanks to that added Canadian smoke. And our smoke wafted on the jet stream to Europe.

Hey friends – it’s not all our fault! But it does show that there are no borders when it comes to climate catastrophes.

Call your local Conservative MP’s office and you might hear, as I did, “It’s people starting the fires.” In fact, research shows half of such fires are ignited by lightning, and there’s more lightning because of global heating, according to Canadian researcher and long-time wildland fire expert Mike Flannigan. As any good Scout or Guide knows, fires start and spread easier with dry kindling. This year’s hotter, drier spring provided a lot of that, said Dave Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada.

Flannigan told CTV the number of human-caused fires has been dropping, thanks in part to fire prevention education. Meanwhile the area burned in Canada has doubled since the early 1970s because of the increase in lightning fires. And because of climate change.

While forest fires may have had the most impact on us this year, warmer temperatures also had an earlier effect in our capital. For the first time since it opened more than 50 years ago, the Rideau Canal Skateway stayed closed, thanks to unstable ice.

When opposition leaders tried to get our provincial premier to admit there was a link between climate change and our wild wildfire season, he demurred. It doesn’t fit with his actions, like cancelling our cap-and-trade system and hundreds of renewable energy projects when he took power in 2018, or his current support for expanding natural gas electricity generation.

But Flannigan can read the smoke signals, and he says the message is clear. We need to address climate change head on: stop using coal, oil and gas as soon as possible and shift to renewable energy to reduce emissions and global heating.

Because these days, everyone can’t just pull up stakes and move. Where would we go?


  1. Wallace says:

    Idiot humans setting fires has NOTHING to do with ‘climate change’ — also, when the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai submarine volcano erupted last year, NASA predicted it would cause temps to rise globally for the next few years, possibly decades. The trillions of tons of water vapor that were added to the atmosphere from this under water volcano cause temps to rise globally…. Look it up. The effects of this one underwater volcano are really incredible…but hey, lets not look at actual facts when its easier to continue the fear mongering.

  2. Ginny Colling says:

    From NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: “the Tonga volcano didn’t inject large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere, and the huge amounts of water vapor from the eruption may have a small, temporary warming effect, since water vapor traps heat. The effect would dissipate when the extra water vapor cycles out of the stratosphere and would not be enough to noticeably exacerbate climate change effects.” https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/tonga-eruption-blasted-unprecedented-amount-of-water-into-stratosphere

  3. Wallace says:

    When Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha‘apai (HTHH) erupted in January 2022, it shot the standard volcanic cocktail of ash, gas, and pulverized rock into the sky. But the eruption included one extra ingredient that’s now causing climate concerns: a significant splash of ocean water. The underwater caldera shot 146 metric megatons of water into the stratosphere like a geyser, potentially contributing to atmospheric warming over the next 5 years, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change.

    Earth’s average temperature is teetering on the edge of surpassing its preindustrial level by 1.5°C—the target set by the United Nations in the Paris Agreement. In May 2022, the World Meteorological Organization announced there was a 50% chance of exceeding the 1.5°C threshold over the next 5 years. The new study showed that slight warming caused by the HTHH eruption increased the likelihood of Earth temporarily tipping past that mark by another 7%. (dated march 2030) — you better buy another ev and pay more taxes to , Ginny

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