Port-Cartier, Que., issues evacuation order due to wildfires

The city of Port-Cartier has declared a state of emergency for five days.  (Submitted by Denise Richard - image credit)
The city of Port-Cartier has declared a state of emergency for five days. (Submitted by Denise Richard - image credit)

About 1,000 residents of Port-Cartier, on Quebec's North Shore, have been ordered to leave their homes overnight Friday due to the threat of wildfires.

The municipality has a population of about 6,500.

Four forest fires, all sparked by lightning, were burning uncontrolled on Quebec's North Shore as of Friday, according to the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU).

One of those fires, roughly 50 hectares in size, broke out around noon Friday near Lake Morin, close to Port-Cartier.

The city has declared a state of emergency for five days.

Public Security Minister François Bonnardel posted about the fires on the social media platform X on Friday, saying authorities were keeping an eye on the region.

The Red Cross, the CISSS de la Côte-Nord and the Sûreté du Québec are working with the municipality to ensure the safety of citizens.

"Our teams are in contact with municipalities and are ready to support them if necessary," Bonnardel wrote.

In a post on the city's Facebook page, officials ordered the population to vacate the sectors of Brunel Park, Dominique Park as well as all residences located north of Route 138.

As the fires intensify, SOPFEU teams have been actively working on the ground to bring them under control. About 60 personnel are involved as forest firefighters, supported by seven helicopters and four tanker aircraft, confirmed Isabelle Gariépy, a spokesperson for the fire fighting service.

Displaced residents may go to Baie-Comeau, where temporary accommodation is available at the Henry-Leonard centre. As of Saturday morning, five people from Port-Cartier are staying at the shelter, said Port-Cartier city manager Nicolas Mayrand.

For people who don't have access to a vehicle, a shuttle service was offered from the Abri de Port Cartier educational centre until 10 p.m. Friday.

Mayrand said there are 325 beds available to evacuees at the shelters, with more on the way.

Kateri Champagne Jourdain, MNA for the Côte-Nord, said Saturday that residents of Port-Cartier will be entitled to up to $1,500 in compensation per main residence evacuated.

Residents are being asked to call 418-766-2348 for information about evacuation plans.

Maximum security prison to be evacuated

Correctional Service Canada confirmed its intentions to evacuate staff at the Port-Cartier Institution as well as inmates.

A spokesperson for the federal agency said in a statement Friday that inmates would be moved to pre-designated locations, where they would "continue to be securely incarcerated."

"We have put measures in place to ensure that evacuations are carried out in such a way as not to compromise the safety of the public, our staff or offenders in our custody," the spokesperson said.

Port-Cartier Institution was recently in the news because that is where convicted B.C. serial killer Robert Pickton was held before he was attacked in May. The 74-year-old later died of his injuries.

According to Correctional Service Canada, the penitentiary has a triangular design model with direct observation living units.

Family members of inmates at Port-Cartier Institution will be informed "as soon as possible" of the location where their relatives will be incarcerated.