Theo Dagnaud scans the horizon to ensure that firefighter patrols have left, and he can mark the area as “controlled”. Quebec, Canada.
2024 Photo Contest, North and Central America, Singles

A Day in the Life of a Quebec Fire Crew


Charles-Frédérick Ouellet

for The Globe and Mail, Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec
13 July, 2023

Theo Dagnaud scans the horizon to ensure that firefighter patrols have left, and he can mark the area as “controlled”. Quebec, Canada.

Fuelled by high temperatures and dry conditions, gigantic summer forest fires swept across Canada in 2023, affecting all 13 provinces and territories, especially northern parts of Quebec. Seasonal summer wildfires are common in Canada, but the record-breaking 2023 fire season began early and ended late, burning nearly three times more land than usual. Although the number of outbreaks was not higher than normal, “megafires” (those exceeding 10,000 hectares) were widespread. In all, an area of 18.4 million hectares was burned (compared with the usual average of 2.1 million hectares). Quebec was especially hard hit, with 5.2 million hectares burned, and some 14,000 people forced to evacuate their homes.

The fires raised awareness of the impact of global heating, and of the irreversible consequences of some human activity. Canada experienced its warmest May to July period in more than 80 years, breaking previous national temperature records by a hefty 0.8°C, according to a Canadian government report. The study argued that wildfire-prone weather conditions in Quebec were 50% more severe because of climate change. Scientists also pointed to the El Niño phenomenon (the periodic warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean), and poor forest management, as contributing factors. 

According to Copernicus, the European Union's Earth Observation Programme, as heatwaves become more common, in combination with long-standing drought conditions, the likelihood of experiencing unprecedented wildfires such as those in Canada is higher. Exceptional wildfires occurred across the globe in 2023, with Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Indonesia all reporting record-breaking fire seasons, and Greece experiencing the largest fire ever recorded in the European Union.

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Charles-Frédérick Ouellet
About the photographer

Charles-Frédérick Ouellet uses photography to examine representations of memory, historical sites, and identity. At the confluence of documentary and journalism, his work grows out of field work exploring the interconnections between physical spaces, displacements and the construction of the collective imaginary. His w...

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Technical information
Shutter Speed





Canon EOS R5

Jury comment

The jury viewed this Single as a potent symbol of the struggle against climate breakdown, serving as a metaphor for humanity's collective arrogance. The image's iconic composition– reminiscent of a monument–poetically embodies the grief and gravity of the environmental crisis.