Quebec, hard hit by the historic fires, is impatiently waiting for international reinforcements, while smoke from about 400 Canadian blazes reaches the United States, where 100 million Americans breathe bad air.
The event was “another worrying sign of how the climate crisis is affecting our lives,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
After the Canadian provinces of Alberta (West) and Nova Scotia (East), Quebec’s turn is “never seen”: more than 150 fires are currently active, of which more than a hundred are not under control. And there is no chance of significant rain till Monday evening.
“With the staff we have now, we can cover about 40 fires at the same time,” said the province’s premier, Francois Legault.
“We need to focus on where it’s most urgent,” he continued.
Quebec has put hundreds of people on the ground. With international help, including a hundred firefighters from France arriving by Friday, the province hopes to increase its workforce to 1,200 people.
The question of equipment and staff will be critical in the coming days, acknowledge officials.
“We find ourselves in a worse year than we’ve already had, and our resources are stretched,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, stressing the need to better prepare for “this new reality.”
Orange smog in New York
It is most acutely felt in the northeastern United States.
In New York, the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan’s skyscrapers were shrouded in an orange and brown haze, while masks, symbols of Covid, reappeared on the streets.
Visibility was so poor that the US Civil Aviation Agency (FAA) slowed air traffic and grounded some planes in the area.
The US government is also calling on fellow citizens with fragile health to “take precautionary measures” in the face of poor air quality.
More than 100 million of them were affected by air quality warnings due to smoke from fires in Canada on Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency AFP (EPA) said.
These warnings concern most of the northeastern United States, from Chicago in the north to Atlanta in the south. Air quality in this area is “primarily affected by Canadian fires, although other local emissions and weather may play a role,” the EPA said.
More than 20,000 Canadians were evacuated
More than 20,000 Canadians have now been evacuated across the country, more than half of them to Quebec as the government prepares to evacuate another 4,000.
Like 7,500 other residents, Nancy Dessaulniers explained on Facebook that she and her partner and their two husky dogs were evacuated from the town of Chipukamau in the north of the province around 2 a.m. Wednesday.
“We decided to leave with the boat, which allowed us to bring important things”, said Quebecer, afraid of losing everything.
“It’s very stressful,” Daniel Harvey, who lives in a neighboring town of Chapais, which is preparing for evacuation, told La Presse newspaper. This dad has “prepared all the kits for each kid to release: papers, hard drives, photos. We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we have to act” and it all burns down.
The French-speaking province has reported 438 fires since the start of the year, against an average of 200 on the same date over the past ten years.
Authorities consider the situation exceptional given the number of hectares burned at this time of year. Canada as a whole is experiencing an unprecedented year: 2,293 wildfires were recorded and about 3.8 million hectares burned, which is higher than the average of recent decades.
Canada, due to its geographic location, is warming faster than the rest of the planet and has experienced extreme weather events in recent years, the intensity and frequency of which has been increased by climate change.
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