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Forest fire management in Quebec: Strategies and innovations

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Forest fire management is a major issue in Quebec, whose vast forested territory is particularly susceptible to wildfire. Increasingly hot summers, combined with unpredictable weather conditions, are increasing the frequency and severity of these events. This situation calls for a solid, innovative strategy to minimize damage and preserve the forest ecosystem. This article explores the different aspects of forest fire management in Quebec, examining the causes, the role of the various organizations, and the recent challenges posed by the fires of 2023.

Understanding forest fires in Quebec

In Quebec, forest fires affect thousands of hectares of land every year, with significant consequences for the environment and neighboring communities. Quebec’s forests, which cover some 761100 km², are particularly vulnerable to fire due to their size, plant composition and proximity to certain inhabited areas. To better understand the importance of managing forest fires in Quebec, it’s essential to understand their origins and the factors that encourage their spread.

Origins and causes of forest fires

Forest fires have many origins, mainly divided into natural and human causes. Natural causes include phenomena such as lightning, while human activities such as poorly extinguished campfires, cigarette butts discarded in the forest and industrial work account for a significant proportion of forest fires in Quebec.

  • Natural causes: lightning is the main natural source of fires. Dry thunderstorms, in particular, can trigger fires in isolated areas, where detection and control can take time.
  • Human causes: human activities are responsible for more than half of all fires every year. Careless recreational practices, agriculture, forestry and industrial work can cause sparks that quickly ignite dry vegetation.

The role of climate in fire frequency

Climate is a key factor in the frequency and severity of forest fires. High temperatures, prolonged drought and strong winds create ideal conditions for fires to spread. Climate change is intensifying these factors, making fires increasingly frequent and intense.

  • Temperature: warmer summers create dry conditions, reducing the moisture content of vegetation, which then becomes an ideal fuel.
  • Drought: prolonged periods without rain dry out the soil and plants, creating an extremely flammable environment.
  • Strong winds: intense winds spread flames rapidly, increasing the size of fires and complicating their control.

Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU), a key player in forest protection

SOPFEU is a central organization in the prevention and control of forest fires in Quebec. It deploys surveillance and prevention teams throughout the territory, while ensuring effective coordination of fire response. SOPFEU also plays a major role in raising public awareness and implementing preventive measures.

The fires of 2023

The year 2023 was particularly difficult in terms of forest fires, with a series of major blazes devastating several regions. These fires ravaged thousands of hectares, causing considerable economic damage and leading to mass evacuations.

Forest fires in 2023

In 2023, forest fires affected all of Quebec’s forest regions. The fires destroyed essential infrastructure and forced the evacuation of several communities, leaving many residents homeless. Economic losses, combined with environmental and social impacts, highlight the need to review and improve fire management strategies.

Why were there so many forest fires in Quebec in 2023?

An analysis of the causes of major fires in 2023 reveals a number of worrying trends. While some areas have been affected by lightning-induced fires, a large number of fires have been linked to human activities, such as campfires and failure to observe preventive measures. In addition, climate change has contributed to the severity of these fires by causing extreme weather conditions, such as exceptionally high temperatures and prolonged droughts.

Managing and fighting forest fires in Quebec

The fight against forest fires in Quebec relies on a coordinated approach between local authorities, specialized organizations such as SOPFEU (Société de protection des forêts contre le feu), and local communities. Proactive management includes prevention, public awareness and the use of advanced technologies for monitoring and rapid response.

Fire-risk restrictions and prohibitions

SOPFEU regularly issues notices of restrictions or bans during periods of increased risk:

  • Open fires banned: during high-risk periods, open fires are strictly prohibited.
  • Forest access restrictions: access to sensitive forest areas can be restricted to prevent accidental triggering.
  • Suspension of certain industrial activities: industrial work likely to cause sparks can be suspended in high-risk areas.

Preventing forest fires

Prevention is one of the pillars of forest fire management in Quebec. Raising public awareness of risks and responsible behavior is essential to reducing the number of fires caused by human activity. Information campaigns, educational programs and partnerships with local communities are effective tools for promoting a culture of prevention.

In addition, sustainable forest management practices, such as clearing brush and creating firebreaks, are implemented to reduce the amount of fuel available for fires. These measures, combined with continuous monitoring and adequate preparation, help minimize the impact of forest fires.

How can drones help fight forest fires in Canada?

Forest fires are a growing threat to ecosystems and communities in Canada. In the face of this threat, cutting-edge technologies such as drones offer innovative solutions for monitoring, managing and fighting fires.

Monitoring and early detection

The drones are equipped with thermal cameras and multispectral sensors to detect hot spots and the beginnings of fires before they become visible to the naked eye. This early detection capability is crucial for intervening quickly and preventing small fires from growing out of control.

By flying over forest areas, drones can provide real-time data on the state of vegetation, soil moisture and local weather conditions. This information enables fire management teams to better understand the risks and make informed decisions to prevent fires.

Fire mapping and modeling

Drones can also provide data that will enable the creation of detailed maps of areas affected by forest fires, providing an accurate overview of damage and areas at risk. These maps are essential for planning fire-fighting operations and assessing the ecological and economic impact of fires.

Forest fire modelling, based on data collected by drones, makes it possible to predict the spread of fires according to environmental conditions. This modeling helps to anticipate fire movements and deploy resources optimally.

Assistance to fire crews

Drones can play a crucial role in providing logistical support and increasing firefighter safety. For example, they can transport light equipment, medical supplies and communications to teams in the field, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

What’s more, drones can monitor fire lines and provide real-time images to commanders on the ground, enabling them to coordinate firefighting efforts more effectively and minimize risk to firefighters.

Post-fire assessment

After a fire, drones are used to assess damage and help plan ecosystem restoration. The images and data collected can be analyzed to understand the extent of the damage, identify critical areas requiring immediate intervention and develop reforestation and rehabilitation strategies.

Innovations and advanced technologies

Artificial intelligence and data analysis

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in drones means that the data collected can be analyzed quickly and efficiently. AI algorithms can identify fire spread patterns, predict future risks and provide recommendations for fire management. This accelerated analysis capability enables critical decisions to be made in real time.

DroneXperts R&D department for firefighting

DroneXperts is developing innovative solutions based on drone technology to meet the various challenges involved in fighting forest fires. Our R&D department designs products that contribute primarily to environmental monitoring.

AIR-SERIES-SM, a major asset in the face of forest fire smoke

This innovative solution, integrated on a drone, enables a complete assessment of air quality, providing accurate data and usable information, even in the most difficult environments. This tool is capable of taking 3 types of sample simultaneously with georeferenced data. It can also measure up to six different gases on a map.

Thanks to this technology, pollution levels can be monitored and/or impacts assessed quickly and efficiently, so that informed decisions can be taken to limit potential damage.

AIR-SERIES-SM has been deployed in a variety of real-life situations, including evacuations, to ensure that neither the population nor rescue teams are exposed to air quality risks. Measures have also been taken to set up temporary camps for rescue teams, enabling them to be safely positioned close to forest fires.

These actions play a crucial role in improving occupational health and safety conditions for rescue teams deployed in the field. By guaranteeing them a safer environment in conditions that can sometimes be very difficult indeed.


Drones represent a significant advance in the fight against forest fires in Canada. Their ability to monitor, detect, map and assist fire-fighting teams makes them invaluable tools for fire management. Despite the challenges associated with their use, technological innovations and the integration of artificial intelligence continue to improve their efficiency and reliability.

By combining drone technology with well-designed fire management strategies, Canada can strengthen its ability to prevent and fight forest fires. Protecting our forests from this growing threat is a collective responsibility that requires the commitment of everyone, from government authorities to citizens.



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