SOPFEU assessment | Forest fires increase in April

In April, you don’t uncover yourself… and near a forest, you don’t burn trash. This could be the adage of SOPFEU, which noted a slight increase in forest fires in Quebec over the last month. Fires which were all of human origin, aggravated by an early spring.

In its monthly report released on Monday, the Society for the Protection of Forests Against Fire (SOPFEU) indicates that it recorded 52 fires in April, an increase compared to the average of 42.4 fires recorded over the last 10 years for the same period. of the year. The area burned in April totaled 45.8 hectares of forest, compared to a 10-year average of 27.2 hectares.

Human activity involved

It should be noted that all the fires were caused by human activities, but could not have spread without the drier conditions observed on the ground. According to SOPFEU, almost half (44%) of the fires were caused by the burning of plant debris during spring cleaning carried out by citizens on their land.

“Spring fires, in general, are of human origin,” notes Karine Pelletier, prevention and communications officer at SOPFEU, adding that many citizens underestimate the risks when burning plant waste.

“If the conditions (in the forest) are not there, whether the fire is of natural or human origin, there is simply no fire,” specifies Yan Boulanger, forest ecology researcher at Natural Resources Canada. The more conditions conducive to a fire are there, the greater the risk, he adds.

SOPFEU also reports that fires have appeared almost everywhere in the territory, and not only in southern Quebec. In Abitibi, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and on the North Shore, among others, the early disappearance of the snow cover created favorable conditions for the spread of the fire.

“There was very little snow, so we found ourselves with a deficit of snow cover,” confirms Yan Boulanger. Does this mean that we will have another record fire season in Quebec? “It is extremely difficult to make such predictions. It depends on several variables and even on a concordance of these variables,” he adds.

Historical data, however, shows that a summer following a winter marked by the El Niño weather phenomenon, as is currently the case, “promotes forest fires in certain regions,” specifies Mr. Boulanger.

According to him, above-average temperatures are forecast for the summer, a warning sign of a greater risk of fire. Especially in western Canada, which is experiencing a period of prolonged drought, “which is not the case in Quebec,” indicates the researcher.

The year 2024 may not set a new record in Quebec in terms of forest fires, “but the risks of observing a year like 2023 will become more and more important in the future with climate change », affirms Yan Boulanger.


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