Canada — Firefighters battled a series of out-of-control fires in central and northern Quebec yesterday that forced the evacuation of an entire native reserve and required a call for reinforcements from other provinces.
SOPFEU, Quebec’s forest fire protection agency, said 57 blazes, including 16 new ones, raged across the province yesterday, destroying more than 28,000 hectares of forest.
The Abitibi region in northern Quebec and the upper Mauricie region, north of Trois RiviËres, are the two provincial hot spots.
“The situation is pretty critical,” SOPFEU spokesperson Eloise Richard said.
The recent heat wave in Quebec has increased fire risks, and lightning also sparked blazes.
The forecast for hot and dry conditions for the next few days isn’t encouraging firefighters, Richard said.
The weather will dictate how dry the forest conditions are throughout the summer, SOPFEU official Joanie CÙtÈ explained.
At the corresponding date last year, there had been 199 fires reported in Quebec vs. the 309 reported in 2010.
There is a ban on open-air fires throughout most of the province.
The fire protection agency has 14 water bombers, 50 helicopters and more than 800 firefighters battling the flames in Quebec. Two water bombers from Manitoba were expected to arrive yesterday.
Firefighters are securing villages and houses in the affected areas to prevent new fires from blazing out of control, Richard said.
One of the biggest blazes – made up of 12 out-of-control fires – in central Quebec forced more than 1,300 people out of the Wemotaci First Nation reserve, 300 kilometres north of Trois RiviËres. The fire remained at the village limits yesterday as thick smoke covered the region.
Authorities are keeping their eyes on fires near the Obedjiwan and Manouane reserves and the village of Parent, all in central Quebec.