Air quality alerts continued Thursday for most of Canada as smoke from hundreds of wildfires blanketed the country.
Millions of Canadians have been told to stay indoors and forecasts for the most populated area in Toronto and region predict the smoke will increase through the end of the week.
As of Wednesday, 414 wildfires were burning, including 239 out of control. That’s up from 211 wildfires reported at the end of May.
Thousands of firefighters from around the world, including personnel from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and South Africa are battling the fires.
Wildfire season begins in early May as protective snow melts and lightning strikes and careless campfires ignite tinder-dry forests that cover much of the country.
Fires in northern Quebec forced more than 11,400 people from their homes on Wednesday and more evacuation orders are expected to be issued soon, officials said. About 155 fires have been reported.
Premier Francois Legault said Wednesday that fires burning in the northern and western areas of the province will mean those evacuated will not be able to return to their homes until next week.
In British Columbia on the west coast, the second-largest wildfire in provincial history covered 310,805 hectares as of Thursday morning. About 80 wildfires were reported.
Moving eastward across the country, wildfires are still burning in Alberta – about 70 currently – and Saskatchewan but have lessened from peaks in May.
In Ontario, Environment Canada rated the air quality in the Canadian capital of Ottawa to be the worst in the country on Wednesday.
In Nova Scotia on the east coast, about 16,500 people were evacuated at the peak of a wildfire that threatened the capital city of Halifax and more than 150 homes were consumed.
Between March 1 and June 5, it is estimated that 2,214 fires have consumed 38,000 sq.km., making this year on track to be the worst in Canadian history.