Rainfall likely won’t be enough to extinguish wildfires ravaging northern Quebec, officials said Tuesday, but wet weather could give firefighters a chance to outrun the flames, as Canada surpassed the record for area burned by wildfires this week.
Smoke drifting from wildfires across Canada is creating curtains of haze and raising air quality concerns across the Great Lakes region, and in parts of the central and eastern United States.
Meanwhile, NASA reports that smoke from wildfires in northern Quebec has reached Europe. The US space agency said that satellite images released on Monday showed smoke extending across the North Atlantic Ocean to the Iberian Peninsula, France and other parts of Western Europe.
NASA explained that air quality in Europe has not deteriorated to the extent seen in Canada and the United States, due to higher smoke in the atmosphere.
In Quebec, where nearly a quarter of the fires in Canada are burning, the province’s wildfire agency — SOPFEU — is assessing the effects of recent rainfall, Katia Petit, Quebec’s deputy civil protection minister, told reporters.
“If enough rain falls, it will allow SOPFEU personnel to ramp up their work directly in the field, to work on fires and prevent them from starting again once dry weather returns,” Beatty said.
Environment Canada meteorologist Simon Legault said he expects the rain to stop by Wednesday morning in the areas hardest hit by the bushfires. He said warm, sunny weather could return after that with a chance of scattered showers only over the weekend.
Legault predicted more rain might fall in the first week of July, but nothing quite like the “orderly regime” of showers blanketing the county this week.
Earlier this month, huge fires burning through swathes of Canadian forest blanketed the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region, turning the air a yellowish gray and prompting warnings for people to stay indoors.
Despite the rain, the task of controlling the county’s fires remains “tremendous,” said Julie Kopal, assistant director of SOPFEU. The agency counted more than 100 wildfires across the province on Tuesday, including 77 in the southern half, where more than two dozen were deemed out of control.
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center reported Monday that square miles of forests and other land have burned across Canada since Jan. 1, surpassing the previous record set in 1989 of 29,187 square miles, according to the National Forest Database.
There are currently 490 fires burning nationally, of which 255 are considered out of control.
Ongoing evacuation orders displaced about 4,400 people in Quebec as of Tuesday morning.
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