Canada: Quebec wildfire smoke reaches major US cities

Some 110 of the fires were deemed out of control, with evacuations ongoing in northern Quebec's largest town

Canada: Quebec wildfire smoke (photo: DW)
Canada: Quebec wildfire smoke (photo: DW)


The French-speaking province has become the latest wildfire hotspot in the country. Smoke from the fires has travelled as far away as New York, significantly hindering visibility and prompting air quality alerts. Quebec has been plagued with some 160 wildfires, making it the latest hotspot in Canada, where wildfires have been eating up swathes of land in different locations for weeks.

Some 110 of the fires were deemed out of control, with evacuations ongoing in northern Quebec's largest town.

The western Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, some 650 kilometers (400 miles) north of Montreal was hit the hardest.

Francois Bonnardel, Quebec's public safety minister, said the situation was "never seen" before in the province. He added that a large number of these fires were sparked by human carelessness.

Bonnardel noted that unlike western Canada, Quebec is not historically prone to this scale of wildfire.

"But right now everything is on fire."

The hundreds of wildfires' smoke traveled hundreds of miles, as far away as New York city and New England. Some New York residents reported severely hindered visibility due to the smog.

US authorities have issued air quality alerts as a result.

The US Federal Aviation Administration announced the slowing and halting of some flights into the New York City area due to reduced visibility.

The FAA said flights from the upper Midwest and East Coast bound for New York LaGuardia International Airport have been paused, while flights to Newark Liberty International Airport have been slowed.

How have the wildfires progressed?

Authorities ordered some 7,500 residents of Quebec's remote region of Chibougamau to evacuate.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters in Sept-Iles, Quebec that authorities were monitoring the situation "from hour to hour." He added that the situation in several parts of the province remained "worrying," particularly singling out the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.

In the northern Sept-Iles city, some 4,400 previously evacuated citizens were allowed to return home, following rainfall which helped stall the blaze.

"We are very, very happy to see rain," Legault told a news conference. But further north, he added, there's "a huge fire which will take weeks to extinguish completely, so we must remain cautious."

Canadia seeks help from abroad

Canada has meanwhile intensified calls for support, as over 480 wilderness firefighters struggle to battle the wildfires on the ground. Legault said Quebec currently had the capacity to fight just around 30 of its some 160 fires.

"When I talk to the premiers of other provinces, they have their hands full," Legault said. Sime 413 fires were reportedly burning across the country on Monday morning.

Nearly 1,000 firefighters arrived from Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and the US to assist the Canadian authorities, with some 200 more expected to arrive from France and the US again.

Western Canada has been repeatedly struck by climate change-induced extreme weather events in recent years, including floods, mudslides, devastating forest fires that wiped out entire towns, and record-breaking summer temperatures that claimed over 500 lives in 2021.

Earlier in May, wildfires in Alberta burned nearly one million hectares of forests and grasslands, displacing 30,000 individuals at one point. However, wildfires in the eastern parts of the country caused more alarm, with unprecedented wildfires in the Nova Scotia's Halifax prompting the mandatory evacuation of thousands of citizens.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines