MONTREAL -- Quebec has gone from 13 forest fires on Saturday to 20 fires on Sunday, including one which is still out of control in Lac-Saint-Jean, and which is heading towards the Saguenay, already ravaging more than 62,396 hectares of forest since last Tuesday.

“The fire has grown in width yesterday, '' said Josee Poitras, of the forest fire prevention office (SOPFEU). “The fire may not have advanced towards the Pipmuacan reservoir, but it is very close, just before the Monts-Valin.”

Forest firefighters are now trying to protect Hydro-Québec's Péribonka IV hydroelectric plant. The flames were 1.2 km from the facility early Sunday morning.

Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Maxence Huard-Lefebvre said on Saturday that there is “absolutely no” risk to power in Quebec.

“Hydroelectric power plants in Quebec are interconnected on the network. A power plant is not associated with specific customers,” he said.

However, he said that the plant was shut down as a preventive measure.

They are now about sixty forest firefighters fighting the flames and reinforcements from across Quebec will be arriving shortly.

“As of Monday, so tomorrow, we expect additional staff, 200 more forest firefighters,” said Poitras.

On Saturday, the changing wind direction fuelled the forest fire and threatened resort sites. A large perimeter was erected to evacuate vacationers and outdoorsmen who were in this area.

“There are no injuries and there is a perimeter where it is forbidden to enter the forest. So, there are ten check points,” said Poitras.

MRC Maria-Chapdelaine and Fjord-du-Saguenay authorities are in charge of reaching the chalet owners to ensure that nobody is found inside the perimeter considered dangerous.

On Saturday, Poitras confirmed that some chalets were burned by the raging forest fire, but official data has not yet been compiled.


The heat wave in several regions of Quebec, the second since last May, has had a huge impact on the number of forest fires in Quebec.

To date, SOPFEU has recorded 444 fires this year, almost twice the seasonal average for the past ten years.

“The danger of fire is extreme almost everywhere in the province and we had outbreaks of lightning fires yesterday at the end of the day, which explains how the province went from 13 to 20 active fires since the previous day,” said Poitras.

Environment Canada meteorologist Alain Roberge predicted precipitation in the area on Saturday evening, but the rain did not necessarily have the expected result.

“The worst part is that when the first showers arrive, they are often accompanied by thunderstorms. So even if the rain is there, thunderstorms can create new fires,” he said.

On Sunday, the mercury will continue to reach 30 degrees Celsius in the region, which will feel like 40 degrees with humidity, according to Environment Canada forecasts.

Weather and wind conditions will also influence the decision whether or not to use SOPFEU water bombers.


Premier Francois Legault again turned to Twitter on Saturday to indicate that the authorities are monitoring the situation closely in Lac-Saint-John as well as the other fire that is raging in Riviere-Ouelle, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region.

“In addition to the forest fire that rages in Lac-Saint-Jean, a bog in Rivière-Ouelle is also prey to the flames and the winds are not helping the situation currently,” he wrote.


The peat fire that broke out Friday afternoon in Rivière-Ouelle, in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region, it is now contained, but there is still work to be done for the firefighters.

“Yesterday the fire picked up again, so much so that the fire reached 250 hectares of affected forest this morning,” said Poitras. “We are going to work again today. There is a group of forest firefighters who will work on the western flank, which we can see from the highway and elsewhere and we will work on the edge.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2020.