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Wildfires in Canada Cause Alarm Over Air Quality in Multiple U.S. States



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On Wednesday, firefighters battled hundreds of forest flames as Canada's worst-ever early-season wildfires forced the evacuation of thousands and sent a blanket of hazy air over U.S. cities.

There are fires in practically every province and territory in Canada, with the eastern province of Quebec suffering the worst. So far this year, the province, Canada's second-most populated, has seen four times the 10-year average of wildfires.

“Right now, with the manpower we have, we can fight about 40 fires at the same time. But we have 150 fires so we have to make sure that we focus where the problems are the more urgent,” Quebec premier Francois Legault told reporters.

More than a dozen U.S. states were under air-quality advisories on Wednesday as smoke from wildfires floated south, creating a drab gray pall over New York and other major cities.

Around 520 firefighters were battling the fires, with another 150 from the army expected to arrive soon, according to Legault. He said he believed 500 more would arrive in the coming days from neighboring New Brunswick, France, the United States, Portugal, Spain, and Mexico.

Residents of Chibougamau and Ouje-Bougoumou in northern Quebec got evacuation orders Tuesday night, becoming the province's newest group to be driven out after hundreds were forced out last week.

Roughly 11,400 people have been evacuated from isolated areas of northern Quebec so far, and another 4,000 will be evacuated shortly, according to Legault. People should not expect to return home in the next several days since there is not enough rain in the forecast for Quebec until next week, he warned.

A particularly early and violent start to the wildfire season has put Canada on course for its worst-ever year of fire damage, with warm and dry conditions anticipated to last for months.

In Ontario, Canada's most populated province, poor air quality is expected this week in places such as Ottawa and Toronto due to smoke plumes.

Wildfires are typical in Canada's western regions, but flames have spread swiftly in the country's east this year.

Almost 3.3 million hectares have already been burnt, which is 13 times the 10-year average, and more than 120,000 people have been forced to from their homes.

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