Wildfires spread in eastern Canada, forcing evacuations in coastal Quebec

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By Allison Lampert and Ismail Shakil

MONTREAL, June 2 (Reuters) -A coastal city in Quebec ordered some 10,000 residents to evacuate homes on Friday as wildfires spread in eastern Canada and stretched firefighting resources already tackling blazes across the country.

Canada is experiencing one of the worst starts to wildfire season, with forest fires burning in nearly all provinces and forcing tens of thousands of evacuations since late April.

More than 2.7 million hectares have been scorched so far this year across the country, equal to more than five million football fields, federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair has said. That's more than 10 times the average area typically burned by this time of year over the past decade.

In a Friday morning briefing, Blair said there were 214 fires burning across Canada, 93 out of control, and 29,000 people evacuated.

"The situation remains severe across the country," Blair said.

"Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia - they are all experiencing interface wildfires," he said, referring to fires that have the potential to impact buildings and forest fuel or vegetation simultaneously.

Wildfires are common in Canada's western provinces, but this year the eastern province of Nova Scotia is reeling from its worst-ever wildfire season. The Atlantic province has had nearly 200 wildfires that have burned more than 19,000 hectares and displaced more than 25,000 people, compared with 152 fires that burned 3,390 hectares in 2022.

In another eastern province, Quebec, Premier Francois Legault has urged people to avoid spending time in forests over the next few days.

The mayor of Sept-Iles, a coastal Quebec city, declared a local state of emergency on Friday and ordered 10,000 people to evacuate their homes.

"The situation in Quebec is growing day by day," Stephane Lauzon, a federal member of parliament from the province, told reporters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was meeting Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki in Ottawa, promised to keep providing federal assistance to impacted provinces.

"This is a scary time for a lot of people from coast to coast to coast," he said. "We will continue to be there to support in whatever ways we can."

Canadian armed forces have been helping fight fires in western Canada since early May and troops were sent to Nova Scotia on Thursday. Help has also come from United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and Morawiecki on Friday offered to send firefighter from Poland if needed.

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Nick Macfie


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