The fires are spreading rapidly in eastern Canada, where Quebec is also plagued by more than a hundred fires that forced it to order the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents on Friday. “This is a scary time for many people from coast to coast,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday. The country is facing one of the most catastrophic springs on the fire front, with nearly every province affected by massive blazes that have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate in recent weeks.
After the west of the country and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in early May, it is the turn of the east, with Nova Scotia and Quebec, to be affected by huge fires due to hot and dry weather. In total, more than 2.7 million hectares have already burned in 2023 in the country, eight times more than the average of the last 30 years, according to Canadian authorities. And there are currently 214 active fires including 93 out of control across the country.
New fires in Quebec
In Quebec, the authorities had asked the population not to go to the forest in order to limit the risk of accidental fires – most are indeed of human origin (cigarette butt or campfire badly extinguished). But that was not enough and the province was faced with numerous fire starts in a few hours, especially in regions near the St. Lawrence River, when others progressed strongly overnight from Thursday to Friday.
At the end of the afternoon on Friday, the province therefore announced that it was calling on the Canadian army, in particular for assistance in the transport of emergency equipment, foodstuffs and fuel. “The situation is changing rapidly in Quebec,” explained Stéphane Lauzon, Quebec MP.
“There are about 10,000 people who are evacuated in a preventive way on the side of Sept-Îles, there are about 1,000 on the side of Chapais”, specified François Bonnardel, the Minister of Public Security Friday. Hundreds of firefighters from the United States, Mexico, South Africa and even Portugal were called in to help.
Authorities are hoping the rain and cooler weather forecast for the weekend after a record heat wave will bring relief. “Weather conditions favored the fires all week, not the firefighters. We hope that will change soon,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said Friday.
“There are no deaths to mourn but many lives have been disrupted,” he added, speaking of “breathtaking damage”. Unaccustomed to being confronted with gigantic fires unlike Western Canada, the small province located on the Canadian Atlantic seaboard is facing the largest fires ever recorded this year.
In the evacuated suburb of Halifax, many houses and buildings were destroyed, leaving residents in shock. “The house is gone. The shed is gone. Everything is gone. On our property there is nothing left,” resident Jason Young told reporters.
Canada, which, due to its geographical location, is warming faster than the rest of the planet, has been confronted in recent years with extreme weather events, the intensity and frequency of which are increased by climate change.