The White House said Biden made the order after speaking with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the evolving wildfire situation, where the American president pledged continued support to Canada.
“The President has directed his team to deploy all available Federal firefighting assets that can rapidly assist in suppressing fires impacting Canadian and American communities,” a readout of the call said.
The White House has been in regular touch with the federal government in Ottawa for several days now, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday. The U.S. has already deployed more than 600 firefighters and personnel, as well as water bombers, according to the administration.
Earlier Wednesday night, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau had spoken with Biden about the wildfires and the effect on air quality in both countries and thanked the U.S. for its support.
“Both leaders acknowledged the need to work together to address the devastating impacts of climate change,” read an official summary of the conversation.
On Twitter, Biden said wildfire events are intensifying “because of the climate crisis,” and asserted that the government was in touch with state and local leaders.
“It’s critical that Americans experiencing dangerous air pollution, especially those with health conditions, listen to local authorities to protect themselves and their families.”
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre database showed Wednesday afternoon that 440 fires were burning in nine provinces and two territories. More than half were considered out of control.
The amount of land burned surpassed the 40,000-square-kilometre mark Wednesday, making the 2023 fire season Canada’s fourth-worst on record before the summer has even officially begun.
At the current pace of burning, the all-time record is expected to be surpassed by next week.
The wildfires have impacted air quality across North America.
In the morning, Environment Canada’s air quality health index listed Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., as the worst in Canada, with a very high risk warning. They were followed closely by the eastern Ontario cities of Kingston, Cornwall and Belleville.
Residents in those cities were encouraged to limit outdoor activities, and those most vulnerable to the smoke were told to avoid them altogether.
By late afternoon, the risk had eased somewhat in eastern Ontario as winds shifted the smoke closer to the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.
Forecasts suggest that the GTA, the Niagara region and southwestern Ontario are due to see the highest risks because of bad air quality on Thursday and Friday, while the risk level in Ottawa will drop.
The eastern United States is also seeing devastating effects from wildfire smoke drifting south from Canada, with cities like New York and Washington, D.C., issuing air quality warnings of their own.
On Twitter, which was awash Wednesday in photos and videos of the otherworldly scene, the National Weather Service posted a time-lapse video that showed the New York skyline gradually disappearing behind a thick orange veil. New York Mayor Eric Adams urged residents to stay home and avoid outdoor activities.
—With files from the Canadian Press