Dry weather yields an active fire season, pushing Quebec's firefighters to capacity

Firefighters in Central Quebec were able to save dozens of homes near Saint-Étienne-des-Grès by dropping thousands of litres of water over a forest fire that burned 25 hectares of forest.

Crews from six neighbouring municipalities were called in when the fire broke out on Friday night. One home, one cottage and five garages were destroyed in the blaze.

"We were really concerned for several residences," said Mayor Robert Landry.

Several ground crews were still on site on Sunday morning to ensure the fire is entirely out, said Mélanie Morin, a prevention and communications officer for SOPFEU, Quebec's forest fire prevention agency.

"The fire is no longer progressing.  We are working within the perimeter to extinguish hot spots, and we think it may take another day or two before we can get all those hot spots out and declare the fire extinguished."

The warm, dry weather in southern Quebec these past weeks created ideal conditions for fires to spread, Morin said. Across the province, fire crews are working at full capacity, putting out 20 new fires every day on average.

With 315 fires total this season, 2020 has seen more than double the number of fires usually recorded at this time of year, which is normally closer to 150.

More warm weather on the way

A large fire also forced the evacuation of several hunting and fishing cabins in the Portneuf region on Saturday.

200 people were forced to leave the Rivière-Blanche area. The fire, which burned 21 hectares of forest, is now under control.

Residents near New Richmond, on the Gaspé peninsula, were also forced out of their homes. The 15.8 hectare fire is now contained.

Even though temperatures will climb even higher in the coming days, hitting the 30-degree mark in some regions, Morin said fire activity is expected to slowly decrease.

Service Incendie de Saint-Étienne-des-Grès

"That type of heat wave brings quite high humidity, which is generally not that conducive to burning conditions," she said.

Some lightning is expected on Monday, however, which could ignite new fires.

Camp fires are still banned in most regions of Quebec, including Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean, the Eastern Townships, Montérégie, Lanaudière, the Laurentians, Montreal, Central Quebec, Chaudières-Appalaches, Gaspé, the North Shore and the Lower Saint-Lawrence.

100 per cent of this year's forest fires were caused by human activity, Morin said.

Daniel Coulombe/Radio-Canada