Saturday, June 22, 2024

Ottawa air quality rises to ‘very high risk’ again due to forest fires

Ottawa, June 26 (IANS) The air quality in Ottawa started out bad and got worse during the weekend, rising to “very high risk” on the federal air quality index’s highest level.

“High levels of air pollution have developed due to smoke from forest fires. Smoke plumes from forest fires in Quebec have moved into the area, resulting in deteriorated air quality,” Environment Canada said in an official statement.

In response, organisers of two out of the four major festivals in Ottawa have made the decision to cancel events, while the city of Ottawa has taken the step to cancel its outdoor programs and close wading pools and outdoor pools.

The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival on West Hunt Club ended a day earlier than scheduled due to concerns over air quality.

The organisers assured attendees who were worried about the air quality and chose not to participate in the activities that they would be reimbursed.

The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, which in its final day, cancelled all paddling events.

The City of Gatineau announced it was closing beaches on Sunday morning, while other measures could also become necessary.

Air quality readings are expected to drop to a level 7 on Monday, which is still a high risk, returning to a moderate risk at night.

Current weather conditions could worsen forest fires in Quebec and spark new ones, the Minister of Public Security announced.

According to a statement from the ministry, several parts of the province are currently experiencing a flammability index ranging from “very high” to “extreme” indicating a significant risk of burning.

The heightened risk is attributed to decreased levels of precipitation and rising temperatures, which have intensified the threat of forest fires.

Several regions are currently under close surveillance including Abitibi-Temiscamingue, the North Shore, northern Quebec and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.

SOPFEU, Quebec’s forest fire agency, is actively engaged in combatting 81 fires across the province, with 25 of them being classified as out of control.

Presently, the agency has prioritized its resources towards managing 43 fires.

Several municipalities have had to evacuate in the last few days, including some parts of the northwestern city of Senneterre.

On June 23, authorities issued an evacuation order of 60 cottages in a rural area, around 30 km north of the city centre.

Later in the day, evacuation orders were also issued for certain sectors of Beaucanton, Val-Paradis and Lac Pajegasque in the northwestern parts of the province.

According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, there were five new wildfires burning in Canada on Sunday, bringing the total across the country this year to 2,880.

Wildfires have so far devoured about 74,000 square km of land in Canada, making 2023 one of the worst years for wildfires on record, according to the center.

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