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Wildfires in Canada are on their way to becoming the new normal

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Summer's in full swing. Time to get outdoors, to walk and play. But for many Canadians, it's not as easy as it's been in the past. Great stretches of Canada have been affected by this summer's record-breaking fire season, and there have been more days with more extreme heat. Sheena Rossiter has this report from Edmonton.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Show me the love, guys.

(CHEERING)

SHEENA ROSSITER, BYLINE: A crowd of revelers gather around street performers in Edmonton's downtown Churchill Square.

(APPLAUSE)

ROSSITER: Many people have flocked to the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival for a day out with friends and family. Some 50 artists from nine countries performed 500 shows over the 10-day festival. In recent years at festivals like this one, there are always concerns that wildfire smoke will choke out performances. Here's Liz Hobbs, the director of programming and communications at the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival.

LIZ HOBBS: Most of our performers are kind of high-level athletic acrobats who can't really be doing what they do when you can't breathe outside. So yeah, at a certain point we would definitely have to scale back if not cancel completely, depending on how terrible it is.

(CHEERING)

ROSSITER: With over 100 active wildfires still burning in the province of Alberta, during its final days, smoke blanketed the city and made for extremely poor air quality, putting a damper on the festival. But as Liz Hobbs says, it's not just smoke. Extreme heat is something the festival needs to take into consideration for future years, too.

HOBBS: With it getting hotter and hotter and hotter, we started conversations with the city about looking at some things that Australia does, for example, where they have massive outdoor tarps that they cover festival sites with and things like that. We haven't quite hit that point yet, but it's definitely something that we're thinking about in the future - five, 10 years from now.

CATE FLAHERTY: There we go, you guys.

(CHEERING)

FLAHERTY: You are a lot of people. This is very hard. Paige (ph), take a big bow. You deserve it.

ROSSITER: Cate Flaherty goes by Cate Great. She's an international street performer, something she's been doing for 17 years. As a performer, battling the elements is hard on her health, but it puts a dent in her pocket, too.

FLAHERTY: It's really rough when it gets hot. But at a certain point, like, you're outdoors. You're doing physical activity. You really have to watch your body, make sure that you're not going to pass out. Or even worse is the audience can't take the heat. And since we make all of our money from the donations of the audience, if the audience can't stand still long enough to watch your show, then you don't make as much money. So the big heat waves that we've been having have been affecting the entire outdoor performance industry.

ROSSITER: And this heat is expected to last for the rest of the summer, across the country.

DAVID PHILLIPS: We're breaking more old warm records than we do cold records by a long shot.

ROSSITER: That's David Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada. He says Canada set a record for the number of records that were broken for high temperatures across the country. And these smoky hot summers are the new normal.

PHILLIPS: These warm temperatures, these fires - they're not going to go away. I think this is just a dress rehearsal or a dry run of what summers in the future will be like in Canada.

ROSSITER: For NPR News, I'm Sheena Rossiter in Edmonton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Sheena Rossiter