Quebec could run out of tanker pilots within a week to fight forest fires that will soon have more than 15,000 evacuations.
“The more time goes by, the more challenges there will be for pilots and mechanics,” Prime Minister Francois Legault said Wednesday morning.
He recalled that after a certain number of hours of flying, pilots were required to rest and inspect equipment. “There is no shortage of drivers now, but after a week, there will be real challenges,” he warned.
Head of Government visited Forest fires are spreading in Quebec. The situation on the north bank has been resolved, but Mr. Legault continues to worry.
In total, 11,400 people had to leave their homes, but the Prime Minister announced, “but we are thinking of adding another 4,000 people” by evacuating the Cree community of Mistisini in Nord-du-Québec. Quebec is also keeping an eye on the city of Chapais, where crews are working on an evacuation plan for Saint-Félicien.
“For now, we don’t expect any significant rain before next Monday evening,” Mr. Legault said. Therefore, he said it is better to be “realistic” and that evacuees should not consider returning home for at least “five or six days”.
Along with the Prime Minister, Luc Dugas, director of the Provincial Center for the Protection of Forests Against Fire (SOPFEU), declared that he had never experienced such a situation in his 23-year career. The fire has so far destroyed 460,000 hectares of forest.
“In the history of SOPFEU – the last 50 years – the worst year, this time we passed it,” underlined the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Maïté Blanchette Vézina. “This is a situation we have never seen before. »
Lack of weapons
In an exchange with the Prime Minister, SOPFEU’s Luc Dugas expressed concern about the lack of manpower to fight the fires.
“In the short term, it’s going well, but in the long term, it’s going to be problematic because they [les pilotes] will achieve maximum time on duty. “The state aviation service has failed to recruit the full number of pilots required for its mission,” he said.
However, even in the private sector, pilots, “there aren’t tons of them,” Mr. Recognized Legault. At the moment, 11 of SOPFEU’s 13 air tankers are operational. A Yellowknife company provided two other aircraft, and an American company loaned four aircraft.
On the ground, SOPFEU has 520 employees “and that’s 520 in the ‘cap boots’ department,” said Mr. Dugas summed it up. There are 150 soldiers in the forest.
With the help of New Brunswick, France, the United States, Portugal, Spain and Mexico, Mr. Legault said.
“With the current staff, we can cover about 40 fires, but there are 150,” he recalled.
The Prime Minister also announced that his government is working on a plan to provide financial compensation to the evacuees. The goal, he said, is to “cover any extraordinary expenses you may have.”
He said he follows Public Health’s work on air quality. “What we’re being told is that the risks are low, but people with lung problems, asthma problems, it’s better to keep the windows closed,” he says.
Ottawa is ready to help
Federal Defense Minister Anita Anand said Wednesday that her government is ready to send other troops, including airline pilots, if requested by Quebec.
“We have a capability in Canada. We are constantly reviewing these opportunities to assist our forces [armées pour] Forest fire,” he told a press conference.
About 300 soldiers have been sent to the north coast especially to ensure logistics and food supply to the people. A Naval Reserve ship, HMCS Joliet, serves as the base of operations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged that “Canada needs to think about how to equip itself for this new reality,” in which extreme weather events will become more frequent and costly.
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