As wildfires force tens of thousands from their homes across British Columbia, Quebec firefighters are getting ready to join the fight in Kamloops.
Tuesday morning, 40 firefighters from Quebec’s Société de protection de forêts contre le feu will fly from Quebec City to B.C., arriving around 6:30 p.m., according to SOPFEU representative Catherine Morency.
SOPFEU firefighters will work in B.C. for 14 days, she added. Before sending the personnel, SOPFEU evaluated Quebec weather conditions and forest fire behaviour.
While the risk of forest fires grew to extreme levels in some regions of the province this weekend, Morency said SOPFEU has not needed to call for external help. This meant the organization could make 40 officers available to help in B.C.
So far this year, SOPFEU has recorded 133 forest fires. This time last year, 361 forest fires were reported to SOPFEU, with 712 hectares affected. In total, 502 forest fires were reported last year, and 782 hectares were affected.
This year, 6,364 hectares have already been affected by forest fires in Quebec.
“We’re under the average, but in 2008 we had a small season, too, with 132 forest fires by the same date,” Morency said Monday.
“In one day it can rise,” she said of the forest fire rate.
In Quebec, there were five forest fires this past weekend — two in the Baie-Comeau region, one near Lac-St-Jean, one in Maniwaki, and one in Val-d’Or.
“Those are our four bases of operation, so all four bases were in use this weekend,” Morency said, adding that this is not an abnormal situation for SOPFEU.
If Quebec firefighters are still needed in B.C. after the 14 days are up, there will be another meteorological evaluation, and an assessment of forest fire risk for Quebec, before sending another crew to take over.
When a forest fire crisis emerges, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre takes the reins — the nation-wide forest fire prevention agency takes requests from whichever province is in need of assistance, and distributes them among Canada’s provinces and territories, Morency said.
“They started more in western Canada,” Morency said, adding that CIFFC then came to Quebec for assistance. The plane that will carry SOPFEU firefighters will first stop in eastern Canada to pick up firefighters from the Maritimes, Morency said.