In this podcast episode, Peter McCully talks with John Valiant, the author of Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast.
In May 2016, Fort McMurray, the hub of Canada’s petroleum industry and America’s biggest foreign supplier, was overrun by wildfire and drove 88,000 people from their homes in a single afternoon.
Vaillant warns this was not a unique event but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.
Vaillant says that approximately 200,000 Canadians have been forced to evacuate their homes at some point during the summer of 2023.
“That’s the population of Regina,” said Vaillant. “That’s a major Canadian city that has been forced from their homes. Wildfire for Canadians now is really a national security threat. It’s a threat to public health and safety, but it’s also a threat to our national security. It’s so destabilizing to have the entire city of Yellowknife basically on the road.”
The conversation delves into the growing threat of wildfires in the context of climate change and the devastating impact on communities in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
Vaillant tells McCully what he learned from interviewing firefighters.
“They’re aggressive, proactive folks who go in there and save property, they save lives,” he said. “That’s what they do. Imagine people like that going into a neighbourhood and you can’t save anything. These folks are dedicated to service and so to not be able to protect the citizens that they’re charged with protecting it’s really wounding. But I think the real injury is not being able to protect the community in the way that you’ve been trained to and the way that you really want to.”
The podcast conversation discusses the changing behaviour of fire due to climate change, the influence of insurance companies in responding to these risks and the urgent need to address these challenges.
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