Mistissini, Que., Canada — Residents of a Cree reserve were evacuated from their homes for the second time in as many weeks Friday, as a forest fire once again threatened the community.
More than 3,000 residents were evacuated, most of them to emergency shelters set up in schools and an arena in the neighbouring community of Chibougamau, 90 kilometres southwest of the community.
Others residents were staying in hotels or with friends and family.
“During the afternoon, thunderstorms and high velocity winds swept across Quebec,” the public security ministry said in a statement.
The storm lit several new forest fires and re-ignited others.
“Near the Cree community of Mistissini, a forest fire that had been brought under control re-ignited and, in spite of the intervention of water bombers, progressed considerably, threatening the community,” the ministry said.
Real Delisle, director of public security in the region, said the fire was a matter of metres from the community’s edge, not kilometres.
“There were fairly violent winds at the end of the day (Friday),” Delisle said. “The fire in question was transported a good distance very quickly.”
The Red Cross, provincial police and provincial and federal emergency officials evacuated residents Friday evening and the highway into the community was closed.
Delisle said firefighters were working tirelessly to battle the blaze but the heavy winds were not helping.
Residents of Mistissini, located 750 kilometres north of Montreal, were evacuated June 7 as three separate forest fires threatened the community. They returned two days later, last Friday, after firefighters, with a little help in the form of rain, brought the blazes under control.
There have been 339 forest fires in Quebec so far this summer, destroying 5,900 hectares of forest.
Several fires were burning after Friday’s thunderstorm.
Although no other communities were in danger, smoke permeated the region and authorities advised residents to try to limit their expose and avoid intense outdoor physical activity.