Canadian wildfires result in hazy skies and air quality alerts


Nova Scotia
A firefighter sprays down a flare-up while tackling the Shelburne wildfires in Nova Scotia, Canada, on June 2. (Photo: Communications Nova Scotia/Handout via Reuters)

The smoke from more than 150 wildfires burning in the Canadian province of Quebec has made the heavens "milky" and hazy in parts of Ontario and the northeastern United States, prompting authorities to warn about poor air quality.

Tuesday, Environment Canada issued a "special air quality" statement for the nation's capital, Ottawa, and its largest metropolis, Toronto, warning that "high levels of air pollution have developed due to smoke from forest fires."

"Due to smoke plumes from local forest fires and forest fires in Quebec, the air quality has deteriorated. The agency predicts that poor air quality may persist throughout this week.

Quebec is the most recent region of Canada to experience extensive wildfires, as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the east coast, as well as the western regions of British Columbia, Alberta, and the Northwest Territories, have reported numerous blazes over the past several weeks.

The smoke from the Canadian conflagration has also triggered air quality alerts in the Midwest of the United States, including portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

On Monday, Bill Blair, Canada's minister of emergency preparedness, reported that 413 wildfires were raging nationwide, 249 out of control.

Blair told reporters, "I will admit that the images we have seen so far this season are among the most severe ever seen in Canada." In addition, the current outlook for the next few months indicates the possibility of continued, above-average fire activity.

In recent days, thousands of Quebec residents have been evacuated. As of Tuesday morning, SOPFEU, the provincial fire agency, reported that more than 150 wildfires were blazing in the province alone.

In Quebec's "intensive fire" zone, more than 265,700 hectares (656,500 acres) have burnt so far this year, according to SOPFEU's website — more than the 10-year average of 297 hectares (733 acres) by the same date.

Premier Francois Legault told reporters that many residents could return to their residences on Tuesday, but the province will continue its fight to contain the fires.

Fire 378, located near the Moisie River in the Cote-Nord region of eastern Quebec, "will take weeks to extinguish completely," according to Legault.

"There are still worrisome situations throughout Quebec," he continued.

As high temperatures and other factors contribute to earlier and more destructive fire seasons, experts have linked climate change to an increase in the size and scope of wildfires in Canada and worldwide.

During a news conference this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada could experience "an especially severe wildfire season" this year.

Trudeau told reporters on Monday that the Canadian military has been deployed to help fight the wildfires after Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Quebec were granted federal assistance.

"Due to climate change, we observe increasingly intense wildfires in locations where they would not typically occur. This is why we have invested in training more community-based firefighters nationwide," he continued.

Publish : 2023-06-07 09:30:00

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