Nunavik health board issues smoke alert for two communities

A file photo of the Cree community of Whapmagoostui on the Great Whale River which is side by side with the Inuit community of Kuujjuarapik on Hudson Bay in northern Quebec. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

The health board in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec, issued a smoke alert for two communities on Tuesday as forest fires continue to affect air quality in the province. 

Two Hudson Bay communities, Umiujaq and Kuujjuarapik, were expected to be affected. 

“The air quality is affected in some communities due to smoke plumes from forest fires in Quebec,” the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) said in a statement. “The predictions can change due to winds.”

People will also experience a strong smell of smoke, the statement said.

The NRBHSS says people in Umiujaq and Kuujjuarapik should  drink lots of water, limit outdoor activities, make sure the sick and elderly are not exposed to outside air and make sure that air exchangers are turned off. 

Quebec Wildfires - Quick Facts
  • Active Fires: 11
  • Fires this year so far: 519  (compared to 10-year average of 362)
  • Hectors burned: 1,540,227.1 (compared to 10-year average of 5,741.6)

-Source: SOPFEU, Quebec’s fire prevention agency

People experiencing shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pain, should visiting their local clinic or nursing station, the NRBHSS said.

Modelling shows smokey period this week

There were 11 active fires in the province on Tuesday, according to SOPFEU, Quebec’s fire prevention agency.

More than three million hectares of forest have burned in the northern regions of Quebec, according to SOPFEU, Quebec’s fire prevention agency. (SOPFEU)

The majority are clustered southwest of the Nunavik region and were listed as under control.

However, throughout the summer, the winds have periodically driven the smoke as far south as Montreal, and as far north as Nunavik.

The agency’s modelling shows the smoke’s trajectory from the fires in the Baie-James region of Quebec towards the northernmost areas of the province [In French only]:

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Fire services have returned to Pelly Crossing, Yukon, after a decade without, CBC News

Norway: Smoke from Canadian wildfires forecast to reach Norway, The Associated Press

Russia: New NOAA report finds vast Siberian wildfires linked to Arctic warming, The Associated Press

Sweden: Fire bans in force across large parts of Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Wildfires in Anchorage? Climate change sparks disaster fears, The Associated Press

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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