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Quebec wildfires: Dangerously dry weather to persist in fire regions until Monday

June 22, 2023  By Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — Hot, dry weather conditions were forecasted to continue through the weekend in regions of Quebec threatened by forest fires, complicating work for firefighters, provincial officials said Thursday.

The weather was making it harder to maintain control fires that had been contained, Julie Coupal, assistant general manager of the province’s wildfire prevention agency, told reporters in Quebec City. Since the start of the week, four fires that had been contained were out of control again, she added.

“Of course, there’s the risk of new fires breaking out, which is also serious,” she said. “The large amount of smoke can make tanker plane operations difficult, that was the case for the last two days.”

Katia Petit, a senior Quebec civil security official, said no communities or essential infrastructure were immediately threatened by flames, but she added that heavy smoke had prompted voluntary evacuations in some municipalities.


In the northern Quebec town of Lebel-sur-Quevillon, around three-quarters of the community’s 2,000 residents — who only recently returned home after a two-week evacuation — have left their homes due to the heavy smoke, Petit said.

Another 900 people in other communities have also ben evacuated, she said.

Lebel-sur-Quevillon Mayor Guy Lafreniere said in a video message Thursday that winds were pushing the fire away from the main road connecting the community to the rest of the province, but he said flames were moving toward the town itself. The fire near the town had crossed a river that officials had hoped would act as a natural firebreak, he said.

Lafreniere said the approximately 500 residents who remained in the town should be ready to leave quickly and recommended that people leave the community if they have somewhere else to go.

Petit said the weather in northwestern Quebec is “truly exceptional.”

“We’re talking about a really serious drought,” she said, adding that Lebel-sur-Quevillon normally receives around 95 millimetres of rain in June but has received less than eight millimetres this year.

The last significant rain in the area came in early May, said Jean-Philippe Begin, a meteorologist at Environment Canada.

“Since may 5, there’s been no significant precipitation in the north and the west of Quebec,” he said in an interview Thursday.

The province’s wildfire prevention agency said there were more than 104 fires burning and 43 were considered priorities because they could threaten communities or critical infrastructure. There were 21 fires considered out of control.

With files from Marie-Eve Martel.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2021


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