Wildfire sparks amid Canada, New England heat wave

Wildfire sparks amid Canada, New England heat wave
·5 min read

While portions of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada were baking in mid-summer heat this past week, a wildfire sparked in southern Quebec. Continued heat may hamper firefighter efforts through Monday.

The fire first ignited on Tuesday, June 16, well north of Saguenay, Quebec in Eastern Canada, but was fanned by gusty winds and expanded southward through the week, according to the CBC.

The latest update on Friday evening from Quebec's forest fire prevention agency (SOPFEU), said that the fire swelled to more than 144,000 acres (58,200 hectares) putting a hydro plant near Lake Saint-Jean at risk.

A total of 49 firefighters were on the ground Saturday, helping to evacuate residents and campers in the Pipmuacan Reservior region. Despite the fire's current trajectory, authorities are hoping to steer the fire away from the Peribonka Hydro-Quebec station that serves nearly 85,000 people in the region.

The fire was suspected to be caused by recreation activity north of Saguenay. With hot, dry and windy conditions likely to persist into Monday, SOPFEU has issued a ban on open fires for much of Quebec.

Such conditions will also make it challenging to contain the current blaze.

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The ongoing heat wave has produced temperatures about 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit (5-11 degrees Celsius) above normal along with increasingly humid conditions.

Caribou, Maine, a northern city better known for piling up big snowfall totals during winter, tied its all-time high temperature on Friday when the mercury soared to 96 F. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), the reading tied the city's all-time record high of 96 set on June 29, 1944, and reached again May 22, 1977. The NWS noted that weather records in Caribou began in 1939, and therefore do not include all of the 20th century.

The previous record for June 19 was 91. By 9 a.m. Friday, the city had already reached 82 degrees, the warmest the city has ever been at 9 a.m. on record for any date.

A recent sunset over Caribou, Maine. (National Weather Service)

On Thursday in Caribou, a new daily record high of 95 F was set, shattering the old record of 90 from 1955. In fact, according to the NWS, since record-keeping began in Caribou on Jan. 16, 1939, there have only been ten days where the high temperature settled at 95. The average high temperature for June 18 in Caribou is 72.

Saturday marked the third-straight day that Caribou set a new daily record, as the mercury soared to 93. This broke the previous record for the date of 91 set in 1988.

It's a significant turnaround from the chilly start of June in Caribou when a high of 52 F was recorded on June 1 and a low of 31 F was reported June 2. Temperatures will remain in the upper 80s to lower 90s in Caribou through Tuesday, with a couple more daily record highs in jeopardy during this period.

Farther south, Houlton, Maine, has also set three straight daily record highs since Thursday, with temperatures climbing into the lower to middle 90s each day.

AccuWeather Meteorologist Isaac Longley said the heat wave has unfolded due to a large area of high pressure that set up over New England.

"While the Southeast and mid-Atlantic have been dealing with daily showers and thunderstorms over the past few days, locations in New England have seen the mercury soar into the 90s under abundant sunshine," Longley said. "With high pressure remaining largely in control of the pattern, the heat will stick around through early week before a cold front finally cools things down by midweek."

The heat spread across a large swath of New England.

Burlington, Vermont, has hit the 90s F six times this year. Meanwhile, it took until Saturday, June 20, for Atlanta to hit the 90-degree mark for the first time in 2020.

The sweltering heat set a number of number daily record highs across the border in eastern Canada as well.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Canadian Weather Expert Brett Anderson said Quebec City tied its daily record high of 91 F (32.7 C) on Thursday while Montreal's high of 92 F (33 C) fell just short of the record of 93 (34 C) set in 1994.

Weather summaries compiled by Canada's weather service showed over 10 new daily highs were set across the province of New Brunswick on Thursday, while four new daily records were reached in Nova Scotia.

In the town of Bathurst, New Brunswick, the high fell just short of the century mark when it reached 99 F (37.2 C), surpassing the old record for June 18 of 94 (34.4 C) from 1949. Records in this area go back to 1872.

Elsewhere in New Brunswick, Moncton set a new daily record high of 93 (33.8 C) on Thursday, breaking the previously established record of 91 (32.8 C) from 1949.

"This spell of heat certainly qualifies for a heat wave, especially from southern Quebec and New Brunswick," Anderson said.

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