Canadians fighting wildfires see hope in improving weather conditions

Published: Jun. 10, 2023 at 12:44 PM EDT
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MONTREAL (AP) — Canadians fighting the wildfires that have sent a hazardous haze over the country’s northeast and much of the northeastern United States saw a glimpse of hope Saturday with expectations of favorable weather in the coming days.

Officials in the province of Quebec said the next 48 hours will be crucial, with rain forecast for Monday and warmer, humid conditions until then.

But Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said authorities are still concerned about Normétal, located 450 miles (720 kilometers) northwest of Montreal, where fires are burning nearby.

Another major fight against wildfires is taking place in Lebel-sur-Quévillon, a northern municipality where the province’s largest fire is burning. The situation is stable in Chibougaumau, Mistissini, Chapais and Oujé-Bougoumou, authorities said.

Bonnardel says there are more than 130 fires burning in the province and teams have prioritized 37 of them, with 861 firefighters on the ground and 20 water bombers part of the fight.

Provincial authorities say 13,810 Quebecers have been evacuated due to the wildfire situation in the province.

Hundreds of firefighters from France, the United States, Spain and Portugal have either arrived or will do so in the coming days.

The positive forecast Saturday comes a day after Canadian and U.S. officials said the haze was easing and the wildfire situation in Quebec improving.

Quebec’s forest fire prevention agency has described the current wildfire season as the worst on record. The province has reported a total of 444 wildfires so far this year, compared to an average of 207 on the same date during prior years.

Experts say the wildfires have been fueled by an unusually dry and warm period in spring, and no rains are expected until next week.

Canadian officials say there have been no reports of injuries and deaths so far from the fires.