One Northern Quebec Town Evacuated as Wildfires Spread; Others Allowed to Return Home

One Northern Quebec Town Evacuated as Wildfires Spread; Others Allowed to Return Home
Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 28, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL—Another northern Quebec town was evacuated due to an out of control wildfire on Saturday as the federal government confirmed that Canadian Forces personnel would be deployed to help combat forest fires in the province.

About 2,000 residents of Lebel−sur−Quévillon were the latest to receive a mandatory evacuation notice on Friday evening due to forest fires.

The municipality, about 620 kilometres northwest of Montreal, recommended those who couldn’t stay with relatives should leave with an emergency kit and head to Senneterre, about 90 kilometres south of the community.

Lebel−sur−Quévillon officials issued a social media update on Saturday saying the fire continued to threaten the municipality even though its spread had slowed overnight. There was heavy smoke throughout the town and forest fire prevention teams were doing trenchwork in the area to protect it.

In the North Shore community of Sept−Îles, where a state of emergency was declared Friday morning, an evacuation order for residents of certain sectors of town remained in place. It was the same story in the nearby Innu community of Mani−Utenam, where 1,500 residents belonging to the Uashat Mak Mani−utenam First Nation have been relocated.

The wildfires remained largely stable in the area, not having progressed much overnight. Sept−Îles Mayor Steeve Beaupré said no new evacuations were planned, but residents of one sector remained on alert in case the situation changed. About 5,000 people were forced from their homes as a precaution in the city about 890 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Quebec forest fire prevention organization SOPFEU reports there are 136 active fires in the province, including about 20 that are priorities because they threaten residences or infrastructure.

Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair confirmed Saturday the federal government had approved a request from Quebec seeking military assistance, and Canadian Forces troops will be providing firefighting resources and help with wildfire response planning and coordination.

About 100 soldiers were expected Saturday in the region, according to Employment Minister Kateri Champagne Jourdain, who is also the minister responsible for the Côte−Nord region. Another 100 soldiers were expected on Sunday, she told a briefing.

Meanwhile there was good news for the residents of Chapais, another northern Quebec town, where the local mayor said residents can return home later after being forced to evacuate on Wednesday evening.

Isabelle Lessard’s announcement was met with applause from residents of the town about 715 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

“The fact that the fire has not gotten bigger also shows that what has been done (to stop spread) is effective,” Lessard said, but added residents shouldn’t let their guard down and must abide by provincial notices.

This week, the province asked people to stay out of forests and banned open fires in or near forests across the province.

By Sidhartha Banerjee