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Quebec forest fire agency issues first warning of the season -- its earliest ever

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With the snow melting and the ground beginning to dry, Quebec's forest fire protection agency is already on watch, issuing its first warnings on Thursday.

The province experienced the worst forest fire season in 2023, and authorities fear another major wildfire season.

The SOPFEU (Societe de protection des forets contre le feu) danger warnings were the earliest the agency has issued them in its history.

"It's very, very, early," said SOPFEU information officer Isabelle Gariepy.

The following regions are under watch:

  • Pontiac
  • Gatineau
  • Monteregie
  • The Eastern Townships
  • Central Quebec

While spring is not peak wildfire season, SOPFEU said it can often be more dangerous than summer.

"A fire could start very fast because of the of the dryness of the of the vegetation," said Gariepy

The record-breaking 2023 forest fire season included 711 fires in the spring and summer. Most of them were caused by lightning.

This year, SOPFEU is anticipating another busy season.

"We know that we have an early spring, so usually when we have already spring, the amount of fire is bigger," said Gariepy

Meteorologists say above-normal temperatures over the winter are expected to continue through the spring.

"We'll see how it turns out, but still good conditions of above normal temperature likely," said Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Simon Legault. "So that's an ingredient for maybe a good season for the wildfires."

Quebec's forest fire fighting agency is already preparing and firefighters will be ready to hit the ground earlier than usual. SOPFEU is still recruiting staff.

"I don't know yet how many firefighters we will have in the beginning of the season, but we're working hard to have a lot of the amount that we need for the season," said Gariepy. 

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