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Canadians Fighting California Fires Getting Relief Crews, But Some Headed to Oregon

September 16, 2020 12:37 PM | The Canadian Press


By James McCarten, The Canadian Press

California Fire

The North Complex Fire burns in Plumas National Forest, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

WASHINGTON, Wash. — The Canadians helping to beat back California’s wildfires are getting relief this week, but some of their replacements are headed instead to Oregon, where Wednesday’s gusting winds and low humidity continued to fuel the flames.

Sixty firefighters from Quebec have spent the last two weeks helping to bring northern California’s North Complex blaze under some semblance of control.

But two of the three Canadian crews that are in the U.S. to relieve them will instead go to Oregon, where fires have so far killed at least eight people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and scorched more than 4,000 square kilometres.

Alberta Wildfire says on Twitter that 45 firefighters from the province are headed to Oregon this week.

Smoke from up and down the U.S. west coast, meanwhile, is blanketing the continent, reaching as far as Washington, D.C., and affecting air quality across much of southern Canada as it drifts east towards Europe.

The crisis has also reached the presidential campaign trail: Democratic nominee Joe Biden is blaming climate change and accusing Donald Trump of ignoring the threat, while the president prefers to accuse states of failing to properly manage their forests.

Climate change was also resonating Wednesday on the other side of the country, where the slow-moving hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama, battering the coastline with torrential rains, damaging winds and a devastating storm surge.

“The impacts of climate change are on the doorsteps everywhere, no matter where you live in the United States,” said Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director in Washington.

That, Pierce said, is turning the environment ? long an issue that was forced to take a back seat to more pressing pocketbook concerns ? into an economic imperative that neither political leaders nor voters can afford to ignore.

“You are seeing historic and destructive wildfires, intense and frequent hurricanes in the Gulf, flooding in the Midwest, drought impacting farmers ? there is no area of the country that isn’t seeing some impact from a changing climate.”

Biden seized the chance this week to take the climate-crisis fight to Trump, calling him a “climate arsonist” whose re-election would only result in worsening floods, fires and droughts across the country.

Biden has promised to spend an eye-bulging $2 trillion over the next four years on clean energy projects and efforts to stop power plants from producing planet-warming carbon emissions.

By contrast, in a briefing Monday with state officials in California, the president shrugged off efforts to convince him of the science behind climate change, saying, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”

Kamala Harris, Biden’s vice-presidential running mate, toured what she described as the “utterly predictable” aftermath of the California fires on Tuesday in her first visit to her home state since the crisis began.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Harris said, standing alongside Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“It is incumbent upon us, in terms of the leadership of our nation, to take seriously the extreme changes in our climate, and to do what we can to mitigate against the damage.”

Newsom has for months been framing the situation in California, which recorded record-setting 54 C temperatures last month, as an early warning for the rest of the country and the world.

“It’s snowing ashes,” he said. “The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier. If you don’t believe in climate change, come to California.”

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