► When did the fires start?
Fire season has arrived in Canada, which is facing one of the most catastrophic springs on the fire front. After the Canadian provinces of Alberta (West) and Nova Scotia (East), it is Quebec’s turn to be hit by “never seen” fires: nearly 140 fires are currently active, including nearly a hundred deemed out of control, according to the Society for the Protection of Forests against Fire (Sopfeu). And no significant rain is expected until next Monday evening.
Smoke from the fires in the Canadian province of Quebec spread into Ontario on Tuesday and beyond its borders to the US east coast. About 160 fires are still active in Quebec ⤵️
– Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) June 7, 2023
To date, fires have covered 460,000 hectares of forest in Quebec. A situation never observed for fifty years, underlined the Minister of Natural Resources and Forests.
The French-speaking province has recorded 443 fires since the beginning of the year, against an average of 200 on the same date over the past ten years. Canada as a whole is experiencing an unprecedented year: approximately 2,300 forest fires were recorded and approximately 3.8 million hectares were burned, a total well above the average of recent decades.
► How is the country organized?
Hundreds of firefighters are deployed on the ground. Sopfeu operates 11 of its 13 air tankers. A Yellowknife company provided two other aircraft, while an American company loaned four. On land, Sopfeu has 520 active employees.
In addition, more than 20,000 Canadians are currently being evacuated across the country, more than half of them to Quebec, where the government is preparing to evacuate 4,000 more. About 300 soldiers were dispatched to the North Shore to allow the delivery of food to the population and to ensure logistics.
► What are the consequences?
The fumes from the 400 Canadian blazes reach the United States, where 100 million Americans breathe poor air quality. In New York, the Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of Manhattan were enveloped in an orange and brown fog, while the masks, remnants of the Covid, reappeared in the streets.
Canadian wildfire smoke darkened the skies of New York City and sent the air quality index soaring past 400 on Wednesday, well into the “hazardous” range and the worst since the EPA began recording air-quality measurements in 1999. https://t.co/kXhZndwYPHpic.twitter.com/Va9svFQgUp
— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 8, 2023
Visibility was so difficult that the United States Civil Aviation Agency (FAA) slowed air transport and even grounded some planes in the area. The US government has also called on its fellow citizens whose health is fragile to “take precautions” in the face of deteriorating air quality.
► How is the country helped?
“With the current staff, we can cover about 40 fires, but there are 150,” warned Quebec Premier François Legault. The province is therefore counting on international aid, in particular the hundred firefighters from France who must arrive by Friday, June 9.
“Hundreds of American firefighters have just arrived in Canada and more are on their way,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday evening after meeting with US President Joe Biden.