Quebec, a French-speaking region in Canada, is seeking international support to combat over 160 forest fires during what federal officials have labeled as one of the country’s worst fire seasons. According to François Legault, with over 480 wilderness firefighters on the ground, Quebec can effectively fight only approximately 30 fires. Normally, firefighters from other provinces would offer assistance. “When I talk to the premiers of other provinces, they have their hands full,” Legault stated in a briefing in Quebec City.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 324 fires burning across Canada. By Monday morning, this had grown to 413. Bill Blair, the Emergency Preparedness Minister stated, “The situation remains serious.” He further noted that the current forecast for the next few months indicates the potential for continued higher-than-normal fire activity, and the images seen this season are some of the most severe in Canada’s history.
In Quebec, more than 160 fires have been reported, with at least 114 of these being out of control. Moreover, over 173,000 hectares have burned in Quebec’s “intensive protection fire zone” so far this year compared to a 10-year average of 247 hectares as of the same date, Quebec’s wildfire prevention agency SOPFEU stated. Wet weather in the Atlantic Coast province of Nova Scotia has allowed that province to free up water bombers to dispatch to Quebec where wildfires flared up over the weekend.
Quebec is reaching out to France, the United States, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Chile, among other countries, as it searches for additional resources. Legault announced that an additional 200 firefighters are coming from France and the United States. As of now, no lives have been lost in the fires in Quebec. However, with fires forcing about 10,000 people from their homes in Quebec, most of whom are in the northwestern Abitibi and the eastern Côte-Nord regions, the situation remains tense.
Unfortunately, firefighters had to pull back from the hamlet of Clova, Quebec, which is situated around 325 kilometers (201 miles) northwest of Montreal. “Unfortunately, we lost control,” Legault remarked. “We are going to be obliged to let Clova burn.” The authorities’ statement indicated that the fire’s intensity had surpassed the water bombers’ capacity. However, they assured citizens that they are working to protect the community and that no residences have yet been destroyed, though some cottages may have burned.
Legault expressed concern that Abitibi might be the next location to see a wildfire outbreak as no rain is anticipated for five days. On Monday afternoon, the municipality of St-Lambert, along the Ontario border in Abitibi, declared a state of emergency and ordered its 200 residents to evacuate their homes. The neighboring community of Normétal was evacuated the day before.
Kateri Champagne Jourdain, the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region, announced that 138 members of the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in the area on Sunday, with another 100 expected Monday. They have received training to support the province’s wilderness firefighters.