Quebec on high alert as hot, dry weather forecast can reignite wildfires

Province's forest fire protection agency says contained fires can reignite

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Quebec's forest fire protection agency is warning that the upcoming warm and sunny weather forecast for many parts of the province this week could make it difficult to battle the fires still blazing.

As of Monday morning, there are still 88 active forest fires across the province.

Stéphane Caron, spokesperson for Quebec's forest fire protection agency, SOPFEU, said 80 more U.S. firefighters are expected to arrive in the province tonight to lend a hand.

About 1,500 firefighters and soldiers are currently on the ground putting out the wildfires, he said.

The public security ministry says rain in parts of southern Quebec over the last few days helped, but other parts of the province are still very dry.

The fires near the northwestern town Lebel-sur-Quévillon, which have now burned 375,000 hectares, remain under close watch.

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People from Lebel-sur-Quévillon were allowed to return home Sunday after being away from home for two weeks.

But, they are being warned they might have to leave again if fires reignite.

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Mayor Guy Lafrenière warned residents to have their bags packed in case they have to leave again. He says the hot, sunny weather is the last thing his town needs right now.

"When you get back to Lebel-sur-Quévillon, you must be ready to evacuate again," he said. "For those who have family or somwhere to stay for another few days, we're asking you not to come back immediately."

For some people, it's enough to be back even if just for a few days.

CBC - QC firefighters - Michel Aspirot-Radio-Canada

Firefighters from the U.S. and Portugal have flown to Quebec to help put out wildfires. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

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Josée Poitras, with SOPFEU, says there's no rain in the forecast for Abitibi, Chibougamau, Saguenay or the North Shore.

"With this dryness, the fires will grow — even those that were contained," she said.

Quebec's deputy civil security minister, Katia Petit, is also warning residents of other high risk municipalities to be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice this week.

Thumbnail courtesy of Audrey Marcoux/Société de protection des forêts contre le feu).

The story was written and published for CBC News. It contains files from Lauren McCallum and Radio-Canada.