Wildfires in western Quebec prompt thousands more evacuees to relocate

Thousands flee from fires

Wildfires in western Quebec have prompted thousands to evacuate the area over the weekend, while the threat of encroaching flames eased slightly on the North Shore as Canadian Armed Forces geared up to fight the threat.

Public Security Minister François Bonnardel says some 5,500 residents of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, which borders Ontario, have been relocated.

He says another 4,500 people in the North Shore community of Sept-Îles and its outskirts were also forced from their homes, but no further evacuations are planned at the moment.

He adds rain is expected in the area in the coming days, and the wind direction there and in Abitibi are favourable.

But the state of emergency in Sept-Îles, which sits about 890 kilometres northeast of Montreal, has been extended for five days, with evacuation orders in place at least through Monday morning.

Some 100 soldiers are set to arrive later today to lend a hand.

"We are facing a situation that has never been seen," Natural Resources and Forests Minister Maïté Blanchette Vézina said at a news conference involving Bonnardel and other provincial cabinet ministers.

Vézina noted residents are barred from walking in the forests of several vast regions, including Northern Quebec, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Outaouais, the North Coast, Mauricie, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Lanaudière and the Laurentians.

On Saturday evening, the regional municipality of Val-d'Or announced the mandatory evacuation of several areas sparked by two wildfires and poor air quality. Located within Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the community is under a state of emergency.

Quebec forest fire prevention organization SOPFEU said no blazes are currently threatening the city of Val-d'Or itself. But public health officials recommend staying home with the windows closed due to the smoky haze engulfing the area.

The number of forest fires in the province nudged up to 141 Sunday from 134 on Saturday, including 35 actively being fought by SOPFEU crews.

On Friday evening, about 2,000 residents of Lebel-sur-Quévillon, about 620 kilometres northwest of Montreal, also received a mandatory evacuation notice due to nearby blazes.

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