MONTREAL >> Quebec is looking internationally for support as it struggles to battle more than 160 forest fires during what federal officials say is shaping up to be among Canada’s worst fire seasons ever.
With more than 480 wilderness firefighters on the ground, Quebec can fight around 30 fires, Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters Monday, adding that normally firefighters would come from other provinces to help.
“When I talk to the premiers of other provinces, they have their hands full,” Legault told a briefing in Quebec City.
On Friday afternoon there were 324 fires burning across Canada. As of Monday morning that had grown to 413, and by late afternoon, the total jumped again to 42.
“The situation remains serious,” Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said. “The images that we have seen so far this season are some of the most severe we have we have ever witnessed in Canada and the current forecast for the next few months indicates the potential for continued higher-than-normal fire activity.”
More than 160 fires have been reported in Quebec including at least 114 that are out of control. More than 173,000 hectares have burned this year in Quebec’s “intensive protection fire zone” — the area where normally all fires are actively fought — compared with a 10-year average of 247 hectares as of the same date, Quebec’s wildfire prevention agency, SOPFEU said.
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 this past weekend.
Legault said an additional 200 firefighters are coming from France and the United States, and Quebec is also in talks with Costa Rica, Portugal and Chile as it searches for additional resources.
“With the given projections, it is expected that we have enough resources to cover the summer,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “If things get worse, we’re developing contingency plans.”
Fires have forced about 10,000 people from their homes in Quebec, with most of those in the northwestern Abitibi region and the eastern Côte-Nord region.
Legault said no lives have been lost in the fires in Quebec, but firefighters were forced to pull back from the hamlet of Clova, Quebec, around 325 kilometers (201 miles) northwest of Montreal.
“Unfortunately, we lost control,” Legault said. “We are going to be obliged to let Clova burn.” Authorities said the community’s 36 residents have been evacuated.
Later in the day, officials said the intensity of the fire in the area had exceeded the capacity of water bombers, but it was continuing to work to protect the community. It said on Twitter that no residences had yet been destroyed, though some cottages may have burned.
With rain forecast for the Côte-Nord, Legault said he is now most worried about the Abitibi, where no rain is expected 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 leave their homes. The neighboring community of Normétal was evacuated the day before.
Kateri Champagne Jourdain, the minister responsible for the Côte-Nord region ,said 138 Canadian Armed Forces members arrived in the area Sunday, with another 100 expected Monday, adding that the troops have received training so they can support the province’s wilderness firefighters.