Quebec wildfires send smoke to Maine

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LEWISTON — Lewiston and Auburn firefighters were fielding calls from residents worried about fire after they smelled smoke Sunday. What they were smelling were out-of-control forest fires in Quebec, Canada, firefighters said.

“We sent out a couple of units” to investigate fire on the Gayton Road, said Lewiston Fire Department Capt. Larry Morin. “We knew there were serious problems in Canada with several wood fires going on.”

On Sunday the Quebec fires were out of control. Early Sunday there was enough cloud cover to trap the smoke, and the wind was blowing in the direction that brought the smell of smoke 350 miles to Maine

The Auburn Fire Department also received calls from people reporting smoke, said Lt. Mike Scott. He smelled the smoke coming to work early Sunday from South Auburn and could still smell it at the Minot Avenue station.

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The smoke spread through not only Maine but Vermont and New Hampshire as well, the Associated Press reported. In some places the smoke reduced visibility to about three miles, and the smell of smoke was strong across the region, according to the National Weather Service.

The Canadian fires “are pretty serious,” Morin said. “They almost equal the fires in California.” He was in Canada several weeks ago talking with some of his relatives who farm. “They’re begging for rain. They haven’t gotten any rain in six to eight weeks, and it’s planting season.”

Lewiston-Auburn firefighters told residents who called that the smoke was probably from the Canadian wildfires, but several residents were so worried that trucks went out to investigate, Morin said. “You never know. We don’t take anything for granted.”

Because of changing wind patterns, officials expect the smoke to be gone Monday. If not, anyone with asthma or other respiratory problems should stay indoors, Morin said.

— Bonnie Washuk

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