Unpredictable winds make wildfires an erratic adversary: experts
Hot weather and dry conditions are the usual suspects in any wildfire season, but a complex interplay of topography and unpredictable winds can create particularly challenging adversaries for firefighters, experts say.
In British Columbia, shifting wind patterns have been a key concern for crews battling a fire in the south Okanagan that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.
Mary-Ann Jenkins, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at York University in Toronto, said fire generally moves in the same direction the wind is blowing.
But mountains can complicate matters, she said.
The Rockies, for instance, influence a range of factors, including humidity and localized wind directions.
“Because of the Rockies, wind can be channelled through valleys. It changes — the wind over ridges in the mountains and also sometimes you have very severe downslope winds,” she said.
“And another thing that people don’t know is that winds going up a hill tend to accelerate. As they go uphill, they get stronger and stronger before they reach the top.”
Jenkins said the Rockies create a unique phenomenon called Chinook winds, which are extremely drying, can be experienced all year around and can add to firefighting woes.
“The weather conditions at the local level in a mountainous region are difficult to forecast. Because there are so many things that can happen due to topography.”
Such unpredictability has been felt acutely around Keremeos, in British Columbia’s south Okanagan. The area’s Indigenous name is “valley of the three winds,” said Tim Roberts, the elected regional director.
On Monday, BC Wildfire Service information officer Bryan Zandberg said winds around the Keremeos Creek fire were light, at about 15 kilometres per hour, which allowed firefighters to make good progress building containment lines.
But the winds still had the potential to push flames south toward the villages of Keremeos and Olalla, as happened last week, he said.
“We’re making really good gains,” he said, but added “if the wind picks up, you know, the wind could take it where it wants to.”
More than 500 homes in the area have been ordered evacuated since the wildfire was reported on July 29.
It’s not just the western side of the country where unpredictable winds can be a factor. In Newfoundland, where a state of emergency was called over the weekend in response to a major fire, changing wind patterns have been making the situation difficult to handle.
The blaze that began in an area called Paradise Lake was within 25 kilometres of the town of Grand Falls-Windsor, and crews were working Monday afternoon to build a fire break to keep the flames from creeping closer to the town, said Jeff Motty, the province’s forest fire duty officer.
In the Northwest Territories, meanwhile, authorities are guarding against a flare-up of a fire on the west side of Marian Lake that had previously been dormant underground.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said heavy winds from the south were expected to cause extreme fire behaviour and significant growth of the so-called “zombie fire,” which has grown to about 65 square kilometres.
Prof. Mike Flannigan from Thompson Rivers University said the ingredients for a wildfire include fuel such as grasses and other vegetation, hot and dry weather and winds.
Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be hot, but it has to be dry and windy to fan a fire, said the British Columbia Research Chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science.
“Once you have a fire started, wind is also really important in how that spreads,” he said in an interview. “It spreads in the direction that the wind is going. So a west wind means the fire is moving from west to east, and it’s most intense in the direction of the wind. It’s like being pushed along by that wind.”
Usually when temperatures drop at night, humidity goes down and winds calm too, he said.
But lately, he said researchers have found nights are staying warm, winds aren’t “possibly” calming as much as they used to, making it challenging for firefighters.
Jenkins said fires also tend to make their own winds because they can create a large convective storm.
A fire can produce a vortex of swirling air along a fire line, she said. Pressure is sucked out of these whirls, which can move erratically, and aren’t easy to observe or predict, she said.
“Sometimes they’re fairly benign, but sometimes they’re not,” Jenkins said. “It spreads fire in a very erratic way and it can take out houses that you didn’t expect, or overwhelm firefighters.”
Flannigan said that fires create hot air that rises, and a void that is filled with a stream of cold air.
“The more quickly it does that, the stronger the winds are,” he said. “Wind is just the movement of air. Fires create their own wind field and the bigger the fire, the more intense the fire, the stronger the wind.”
Even at the scale of a small bonfire, Jenkins said fires create their own winds.
“So, larger fires do very, very interesting things with a degree of magnitude and are fairly more dangerous. That’s a natural aspect of combustion, fuel burning, a wildfire burning.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 8, 2022.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
Twenty-six organizations call for MSI for migrant workers in Nova Scotia
Halifax, NS (March 21, 2022) – Today, as the spring session of the Nova Scotia legislature opens, twenty-six organizations have published an open letter calling for healthcare access for Kerian Burnett and all migrant workers in Nova Scotia. Today is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The signatories to the letter include the Antigonish Coalition to End Poverty, Central Kings Community Health Board, CUPE NS, King’s Students’ Union, National Farmers Union – Nova Scotia, No one is illegal – Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Health Coalition and Western Kings Community Health Board.
In some provinces, migrant workers have access to public healthcare on arrival. In Nova Scotia, migrant workers must have a one-year work permit to be eligible for public healthcare coverage (MSI). This means that Caribbean and Mexican workers who come to Nova Scotia under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) are not eligible, because their contracts are a maximum of 8 months of each calendar year.
“Nova Scotia’s MSI eligibility criteria shuts out this racialized workforce. This is a blatant example of systemic discrimination, which can and must be immediately redressed,” said Stacey Gomez, Manager of the Migrant Workers Program with No one is illegal – Nova Scotia.
Migrant workers in the SAWP only have access to private health insurance, which is tied to their employment.
“Private health insurance from employers and restrictions on eligibility for MSI prevents migrant workers from accessing the care they need leaving them vulnerable and falling through the cracks of our public healthcare system. The NSHC signs onto this letter and supports the call for all migrant workers, especially seasonal agricultural workers, to be eligible for MSI immediately upon arrival in Nova Scotia. Access to free, universal, public healthcare is the right of every human being, regardless of immigration status. We must do better,” said Alexandra Rose, Coordinator of the Nova Scotia Health Coalition.
Ms. Burnett, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer after arriving in Nova Scotia as a migrant worker, now has a Temporary Resident Permit until January 10, 2024. However, she still does not have medical coverage in Nova Scotia. She was advised by her doctor to remain in Canada to undergo life-saving treatments and for follow-up care. Ms. Burnett is currently hospitalized.
– 30 –
No one is illegal – Nova Scotia
Telephone: (902) 329-9595
Canada's inflation rate cools more than expected – Financial Post
OTTAWA — The annual pace of inflation cooled in February as it posted its largest deceleration since April 2020.
Statistics Canada said Tuesday its consumer price index in February was up 5.2 per cent compared with a year earlier.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the annual rate to fall to 5.4 per cent.
The reading compared with an annual inflation rate of 5.9 per cent in January and was the lowest annual inflation rate since January 2022 when it was 5.1 per cent.
Statistics Canada noted that the decline was due to a steep monthly increase in prices in February 2022 when the global economy was significantly affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the overall cooling, grocery prices remained elevated and outpaced overall inflation.
Prices for food purchased from stores in February were up 10.6 per cent compared with a year ago, the seventh consecutive month of double-digit increases.
Which food items went up in price in Canada – CTV News
Inflation for goods in Canada is cooling but prices for food remain high, Statistics Canada’s latest report shows.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February was at 5.2 per cent year-over-year, a decrease from January’s 5.9 per cent year-over-year increase.
“This was the largest deceleration in the headline CPI since April 2020,” the StatCan report reads.
Energy reflected the cooling as prices fell 0.6 per cent year-over-year. Gasoline prices are leading the drop, StatCan says, with a 4.7 per cent difference year-over-year — “the first yearly decline since January 2021.”
“Inflation is cooling more than what was typically expected,” David George-Cosh, BNN Bloomberg reporter, told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “But when you drill down into some of the details, it’s unlikely to really convince Canadians that the worst is really behind us.”
Despite the overall signs inflation is decreasing, Canadians are not seeing this reflected at grocery stores, where food prices rose 10.6 per cent year-over-year in February. This is a slight decrease from January, which saw a 11.4 per cent year-over-year increase.
FOOD PRICES REMAIN HIGH
February marks the seventh consecutive month of double-digit food inflation, StatCan says.
This pressure is largely due to supply constraints from extreme weather in some regions and higher costs of animal feed, energy and packaging materials.
Pasta products continue to increase in price, with a 23.1 per cent year-over-year difference in February. This is an upward trend from January, which had a year-over-year increase of 21.1 per cent.
Fruit juice had the largest increase in price from January to February 2023, data from StatCan shows. In January, the product had a year-over-year difference of 5.2 per cent; this rose to 15.7 per cent year-over-year in February.
According to StatCan, the quick rise in the cost of fruit juice is led by the increased price of orange juice specifically.
“The supply of oranges has been impacted by citrus greening disease and climate-related events, such as Hurricane Ian,” the CPI report reads.
William Huggins, lecturer of corporate finance and business economics, explained supply chains are under pressure from many areas.
“We’ve had, for instance, problems with avian flu…There are problems with African swine fever in China, we’ve had trouble getting enough employees to come back post pandemic with their steel supply chains,” Huggins told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. “We’ve seen this not just in Canada, but also in the United States as well. So rather than people thinking it’s very much a homegrown problem, it’s much more of a North American logistic problem.”
Oranges on their own have not increased quite as dramatically between January and February of this year. According to the data, in January oranges had a year-over-year increase of 14.1 per cent, which rose to 15.1 per cent year-over-year in February.
Similarly, apples rose in price year-over-year to 16.6 per cent in February, a 4.5 per cent increase from January.
Some areas did see prices slowing, StatCan said.
Meat products decreased to 6.2 per cent year-over-year, though this is a smaller decrease than in January.
But Canadians aren’t seeing decreases in all types of meat.
Fresh or frozen poultry remained high, as StatCan pegged the year-over-year increase at 10.7 per cent in February, a slight increase from January.
Fish, seafood and other marine products increased by 1 per cent from January’s year-over-year marker to 7.4 per cent year-over-year in February.
Fresh or frozen beef saw a reduction in February, with a year-over-year increase of 2.4 per cent compared to January’s 3.7 per cent difference.
Buyers of some types of produce are seeing a cooling effect as well, including the costs of lettuce and tomatoes.
Lettuce in January rose to 32.8 per cent year-over-year, but dropped the next month to 20.2 per cent compared to February 2022.
Tomatoes in January had a 21.9 per cent year-over-year increase, which dropped to 7.1 per cent year-over-year in February.
STUDY SHOWS MISTAKES ON RECEIPTS
Many Canadians are now acutely aware of how much food items cost, so they can ensure they are not paying more, but a new study shows two-thirds (67 per cent) of people have seen a mistake on their grocery receipts in the last year.
Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab polled 5,525 respondents.
According to the survey, 78.5 per cent of those who noted a mistake reported the most common error was that the price at the cash register was not the same price displayed on the shelf. About one-third of respondents said the daily discount was not applied and a total of 31.4 per cent claimed the cashier scanned an item too many times.
A majority of people said they check receipts for mistakes as they exit the store, before getting home. However, the survey notes not all Canadians have the habit of checking for mistakes; only half said they always check, while 3.3 per cent never do.
“As for frequency of mistakes, 79.2 per cent of respondents claim that they find at least no mistakes on their receipts, at least 10 per cent of the time,” the press release reads. “A total of 15.2 per cent will find at least one mistake on their receipt, 25 per cent of the time.”
Food inflation tracker
Note: data for some specific grocery items are available only nationally, and are not available by province. Can’t see the interactive above? Click here.
Micro galleries highlighting MMIWG stories aim to reconcile through knowledge and art – CBC.ca
Twenty-six organizations call for MSI for migrant workers in Nova Scotia
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