Rain stops forest fire near Kuujjuaq, but more fires expected
KRG on alert for possibility of more forest fires in the region
The view of the skyline across the Koksoak River turned from smoke cloud to rain clouds Wednesday, a welcome change for Kuujjuaq residents concerned about a nearby forest fire earlier this week.
While rain put a damper on most forest fires in southern Nunavik, “at any given day we are looking at more than a dozen, possibly two dozen active fires in Nunavik,” said Kativik Regional Government civil security director Craig Lingard in an interview.
Tuesday in Kuujjuaq, a huge plume of smoke could be seen across the river but by Wednesday morning the fire was gone.
“It was abated considerably,” said Lingard. “It had burned through most of the fire load in its path. The rain is welcomed.”
The fire was getting close to the riverbank, but that part of the river was too wide for it to have crossed over.
“It is no longer a threat to us,” he said of the fire near Kuujjuaq.
Of the fires that were reported near Kangiqsualujjuaq, all but one have been extinguished, Lingard said. The one still burning is near a group of campers on an island that is a traditional Indigenous site, but he said the fire is no threat to them.
There are still numerous fires south of Kuujjuaq but they are in remote, isolated locations. “They are not threatening to any infrastructure, community, or quality of life to anyone,” said Lingard.
However, the likelihood of other fires being reported during the season remains high.
“The ground is exceptionally dry,” Lingard said. “We have not had a lot of rain, and we are experiencing [lightning] strikes. With that combination we end up with numerous fires.”
SOPFEU, the Quebec government’s forest fire control agency, has helped with a few fires in Nunavik but considering all the ongoing fires they are “nearly overwhelmed responding to all the challenges they are facing south of us in more populated areas,” Lingard said.
Help is still being given to Nunavik to monitor for fires, he added.
“They will give us a hand if we require,” he said, “but I think the challenges we are facing at the moment pale in comparison to theirs and the rest of the province.”
The impact the fires will have on the communities is with the smoke they create.
“Every year, forest fires continue to exponentially increase risk,” Lingard said. “Climate change, extreme weather like the heatwave we have been experiencing over the last week, is unprecedented.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t see things getting better. We are just going to have to adapt and prepare a little differently.”