Environment Canada fights Forest Fires in Quebec
The forests of Québec were threatened by the forest fires during the spring of 2010.
Photo: Corel Corporation © Environment Canada, 1994
Forest fires raged throughout Quebec in mid-May of this past year. Lightning and strong winds only made the situation worse, becoming particularly bad on May 26th. On that day, 30 new fire alerts were issued in addition to the 26 active fires the Société de protection contre les incendies de forêts (SOPFEU) was already battling.
The Centre des opérations gouvernementales (COG) of Quebec’s Ministère québécois de la Sécurité publique is responsible for the coordination of emergency measures during these fires. In response to a COG request in May, Environment Canada provided meteorological support through the Quebec Storm Prediction Centre (QSPC).
At the request of the QSPC, the Environmental Emergency Response Section of the Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC) provided smoke plume dispersion forecasts. These digital simulations are created using the CMC supercomputer and are based on concepts similar to the ones used to simulate the dispersion of volcanic ash.
The QSPC warning preparedness meteorologist (WPM) participated in two daily conference calls with representatives of the COG and its provincial partners (health, transportation, Sûreté du Québec and SOPFEU). The WPM also provided the COG with a daily report on the meteorological situation and transmitted smoke plume simulation results produced by the CMC This information was also relayed to regional public safety managers to support planning for evacuation and fire fighting.
The QSPC also provided data to the Quebec ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs concerning air quality and, in particular, smog. Special smog warning bulletins were issued. Health care agencies in affected areas used this information to warn the population at risk.
Thanks to recent scientific developments, it will be possible in the near future to keep Canadians better informed during similar events. The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) promotes understanding of the effect of air quality on health. It is currently available on an experimental basis for Québec and Gatineau, and it will soon be available for Montréal. Work is also currently underway to include forest fire emission data in GEM-MACH, the operational air quality forecast model.
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