The government says affected households will be able to get up to $1,500 in financial aid if residents had to vacate a primary residence due to an emergency order or an official recommendation by local authorities.
Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said at a news conference that evacuation expenses paid for by municipalities will also be entirely reimbursed by the province. Organizations that helped run shelters and manage evacuations during the massive forest fires will also be eligible for certain reimbursements.
“We will do everything we can to alleviate your burden,” Bonnardel said. “I salute the courage and devotion of all those intervening on the ground as well as the resilience of evacuated people.”
This comes as more than 13,500 people have been displaced due to the fires that began at the end of May, many of them from the northern regions of Chibougamau and Lebel-sur-Quevillon. About 50 people were also evacuated from a detention centre in Amos, Que., as a preventive measure, officials said.
International reinforcements arrive
Dozens more firefighters from France arrived Friday, where they will join the effort to put out the more than 140 fires burning across the province in what is expected to be a “marathon wildfire season.”
Bonnardel said there should be about 1,200 people fighting the fires in the province by Monday, including hundreds of firefighters from the United States, Portugal and Spain who are expected to arrive in the coming days.
There are also 370 military personnel helping with logistics, evacuations and fire duties, he added.
Quebec’s forest fire prevention agency, known as SOPFEU, says the new firefighters are expected to head to Roberval, in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, for a briefing before they begin fighting the blazes.
“I salute the courage and devotion of all those intervening on the ground as well as the resilience of evacuated people.”
As of Friday morning, the province said 141 fires were still burning across the province, including 127 in the bottom half of the province where firefighting efforts are concentrated. Some of the fires have been burning freely due to a lack of personnel.
Maïté Blanchette Vézina, the province’s minister of forests and natural resources, said the situation in the province remains critical but is improving.
Vezina told reporters that the arrival of fresh forces on the ground is a sign “the sprint phase has ended and we’re now in the marathon phase.”
She added that morale among firefighters on the ground remains high, despite a gruelling week.
“They’re all fighting, they’re all on adrenalin,” she said. “What they do, they’re there to save lives, save communities, and their work and skills are put to full use. So morale is very good, and even better since reinforcements are arriving.”
The province has reported a total of 444 wildfires so far this year, compared to an average of 207 in the past years.
SOPFEU has described the current wildfire season as the worst on record.
–with files from The Canadian Press
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