MONTREAL – Firefighters used sprinklers and firebreaks to try to tame dozens of forest fires in Quebec that have sent smoke as far south as Washington, D.C., and led to health advisories in three U.S. states.
At least 85 fires — 10 of them out of control — burned Sunday, the Quebec forest fire protection service said. They have destroyed more than 250,000 acres of forest.
Smoke blanketed Montreal, leaving a film of smoke particles on cars throughout the city. The city's public health authority warned senior citizens, children and people with respiratory problems to remain inside.
Sparked by lightning and dry conditions, the fires have been burning since July 2 in two separate regions southeast of James Bay between 200 and 400 miles north of the U.S. border.
More than 500 firefighters — some in planes dropping water — worked to control 45 fires in a region above Lake St. Jean about 150 miles north of Quebec City, fire protection service spokesman Eric Santerre said.
``For part of them we are doing nothing for now because they are too big,'' Santerre said. ``These are really big fires. We are using firebreaks, sprinklers, hoses and motorized pumps.''
``We need rain to bring down the amount of smoke before we can go in,'' he said. Rain, however, is not forecast until Thursday ``so it won't be easy,'' Santerre said.
In the Nemiscau region south of James Bay, about 40 fires were burning. Some 75 firefighters dug firebreaks and poured water on the flames, but dense smoke prevented use of aircraft to drop water.
Propelled by strong winds from the north, the fires have created a plume of smoke and haze stretching from Michigan to Massachusetts visible as far south as Washington, D.C., U.S. meteorologists said Sunday.
New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania advised residents with respiratory and heart conditions to stay indoors. The New York and New Jersey alerts were statewide. Pennsylvania's covered 20 counties.
The New York Health Department urged those at risk to stay indoors and turn on their air conditioners to reduce exposure to the smoke.
``It's quite evident something is in the air,'' department spokeswoman Kristine Smith said.
Downtown Baltimore experienced haze and a smoky smell Sunday, said meteorologist Dewey Walston of the Sterling, Va., office.
The plume of smoke also affected air travel in New York.
``All of our major airports are reporting smoke and haze and visibility restrictions of two miles,'' said David Wally of the National Weather Service in New York City.
Wally said the plume probably will shift north and east by Monday morning, moving off the New England coast.
The fires in Nemiscau have caused the evacuation of 630 inhabitants in two Cree Indian villages, Nemaska and Chisasibi.
The smoke had moved from north-central Pennsylvania to the southeastern part of the state by Sunday afternoon, said Peter Jung, a National Weather Service meteorologist in State College, Pa.