February 26th, 2024

Editors explain why they chose wildfires as Canadian news story of the year

By The Canadian Press on December 20, 2023.

Jordan McGee reacts while searching for belongings in the ruins of his family's home after it was destroyed in a wildfire earlier this month in the suburban community of Hammonds Plains, N.S. outside of Halifax on Thursday, June 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Canadian wildfires were the first choice for The Canadian Press news story of the year, as voted by editors in newsrooms across the country. Here is a sampling of comments from editors who identified the wildfires as the year’s biggest story:

One of the stories that consistently made headlines – and that has been dividing Canadians on social media and among partisan circles generally – has been climate change. These discussions became overly heated during the summer of wildfires that claimed large swaths of Canadian forests, and forced an entire city, Yellowknife, to evacuate. I fear we will only see more of these kinds of stories in the coming years.

– Matt Goerzen, Brandon Sun

2023 proved wildfires are now a national problem and a harbinger of Canada’s new normal. This year, fire season started earlier, spread farther and hit the country harder than ever before. It made John Valliant’s book “Fire Weather” both timely and essential reading in a climate-changed world.

– Dawn Walton, CTV Calgary

This was the year “smoke” became a category of weather, for many Canadians, on the level of “snow” or “clouds.”

– Alastair McNamara, Durham Radio News

Wildfires will intensify as climate change increases – it will soon become the biggest story in the land.

– Richard Dooley, Global News Halifax

Wildfires, be it in Alberta, B.C., the Northwest Territories or Nova Scotia, affected not just Canadians, but became an international story when the thick smoke drifted across the United States. They forced tens of thousands of Canadians to evacuate their homes and even more to suffer the health effects of heavy, persistent smoke throughout the summer.

– Karen Bartko, Global News Edmonton

The description was overused, but it was accurate: Canada’s wildfire season can best be described as unprecedented. The wildfires started earlier than ever; they were more intense; they were hotter; they moved faster; and, there were move of them, touching almost all of the country’s provinces and territories and devouring more land than ever before.

– Monica Zurowski, Postmedia Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2023.

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