Forest fires cause Quebec blackouts

Maxime Duperré, traveling in a truck near Nemiscau, took this video of the fire burning over 25,000 hectares 40 kms. from the Cree community.

About 10 per cent of Quebecers lost electricity Thursday afternoon, the second day of blackouts brought on by powerful forest fires in the province's north.

Hydro-Quebec said 500,000 households or businesses were affected at the peak of the blackout but said service was gradually being restored.

Earlier in the day, Hydro-Quebec's president had explained the cause of the problem.

Thierry Vandal said smoke from powerful forest fires in northern Quebec had prompted a major transmission line to seize up near James Bay, causing a cascading effect.

"Smoke from the forest fires coming into the lines ionizes the air," Vandal said during a news conference.

"That (initial failure) had a cascading effect on a number of other lines. The network is automatically programmed to react to these situations."

The impact Wednesday was felt in Montreal's subway system, which was temporarily shut down. There was no subway interruption Thursday as of 6 p.m., but shopping centres around the city did lose power.

Quebec provincial teams are battling a number of blazes, with help from Parks Canada.

More than 280,000 hectares of forested area have been scorched, and hundreds of residents have been evacuated from the northwestern Quebec community of Eastmain.

It's being blamed on the driest summer in 40 years around James Bay, the hub of the province's hydro production.

Three major forest fires are being monitored, including the biggest one, which has raged at speeds of up to 30 kilometres per hour.

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