Montreal Gazette

10,000 ordered from homes as wildfires threaten Sept-îles

Another 1,000 forced out of Chapais in Nord-du-québec region, minister says


Nearly 10,000 people will have to leave the town of Sept-îles after a state of emergency was declared because of the threat posed by looming forest fires, provincial Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said on Friday.

“Dropping temperatur­es (and) rain this morning in Sept-îles are helping a bit,” the minister said. “The situation is under control for the moment.”

Bonnardel noted also that forest fires had forced out 1,000 residents from Chapais in the Nord-du- Québec region.

Sept-îles Mayor Steeve Beaupré announced the emergency measures during a news conference Friday morning, telling reporters that evacuation­s had begun in the municipali­ty's Lac Daigle sector and that residents living east of the downtown area had to be out of their homes by 4 p.m. Friday.

“We're talking about 2,000 to 3,000 people who will need shelter,” said Bonnardel, adding that civil protection authoritie­s were in contact with the Red Cross.

“We are continuing to follow the evolution (of the situation) from hour to hour,” said Beaupré, who also urged local residents to remain informed and added that other measures could be taken over the course of the day.

SOPFEU, Quebec's forest fire prevention and response agency, said the town was threatened by two fires and that “ground work” was being carried out to limit their spread.

Bonnardel said 107 forest fires were burning in Quebec as of Friday morning.

“We are prioritizi­ng 20 of those fires to protect the population and Hydro-québec infrastruc­ture.”

Forestry companies have not worked on site since the start of the week. Quebec Resources Minister Maïté Blanchette Vézina said on Friday that it is forbidden for residents of seven zones in Quebec, including the Côte-nord and Saguenay—lac-saint-jean, to enter forested areas until further notice.

Blanchette Vézina said Quebec had sought assistance from the United States, Portugal and Mexico to control the forest fires.

Earlier this week, another outof-control forest fire in northern Quebec forced the evacuation of about 500 homes in Chapais, east of Chibougama­u.

Chapais Mayor Isabelle Lessard said Friday would be decisive in determinin­g whether residents can return home, and she warned that even without visible signs of fire, there can still be danger.

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