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Small forest fire extinguished in Quebec's Oka Park

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Quebec firefighters were deployed to the Oka provincial park Saturday evening to battle a small forest fire that was likely caused by a discarded cigarette butt, authorities say.

The fire is believed to have started near the Oka Calvary, a popular hiking spot about 60 kilometres west of Montreal, Noovo Info reported.

The Saint-Joseph-du-Lac fire department wrote on its Facebook page that it started tackling the fire at around 8 p.m. and assisted Pointe-Calumet firefighters in extinguishing the flames. Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon told CTV News that the fire was brought under control at around 1 a.m. Sunday.

Stéphane Caron, a prevention and communications coordinator for Quebec's forest fire prevention agency, said a team was deployed to assess the small fire that burned about one hectare.

The Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU) spokesperson told CTV News that it's "very early" to have a forest fire in late March but that "it's still not exceptional. It's a situation that can happen."

"This year with the early disappearance of the snow cover it's a situation that we are prepared for. That's why we already had the forest firefighters on duty and we will see … whether there will be a lot of rain or not during the spring to find out if it will have an impact on the importance of the season," he said in an interview.

"We're talking about a fire that was probably caused by hikers with cigarette butts. Once again, cigarette butts cause fires in Quebec. People don't assess the danger of throwing away cigarettes on the ground."

Passerby saw fire while hiking

A passerby wrote in a post on Facebook that he spotted the fire while walking through the park and then called 911.

Xavier Renolt said he was walking near the north side of the Calvary when he first noticed some smoke in the air. He said he stomped on some small flames but kept walking and noticed more fires.

"I continue on and see a long line of fire, slowly progressing. I give up now, thinking it's time to call the fire department," he wrote.

The park reopened to hikers on Sunday as authorities were still onsite to monitor the situation

According to SOPFEU, parts of western and southern Quebec are currently at a "high" risk of a forest fire, including the Greater Montreal Area, Centre-du-Québec, the Laurentians and the Outaouais. So far, there have been three wildfires in Quebec this year.

A sign warns of an elevated risk of a forest fire in Oka National Park on Sunday, March 31, 2024. (Kelly Greig/CTV News)

The forest fire season typically starts around early April, but SOPFEU had warned it could begin earlier this year as the province has received less snowfall than usual during the winter, making for drier and more fire-prone conditions.

Last year marked the worst recorded forest fire season in Quebec history, with more than 700 fires — most of which were caused by lightning strikes — that burned 4.5 million hectares.

With files from Noovo Info 

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