MONTREAL — Two major fireworks displays, including for Canada Day, have been cancelled in Montreal as air-quality concerns persist because of wildfires burning in northern Quebec.

It's unclear whether the smog warning issued Thursday would remain by the weekend, but organizers of Montreal's Canada Day event cancelled the fireworks display out of "solidarity" with those affected by wildfires, said Stéphane Guertin of Tandem communication.

"We don't want to put another pollutant in the air right now," said Guertin, whose company produces the show on behalf of the federal government.

Meanwhile, Montreal amusement park La Ronde said it would cancel the first night of an international fireworks competition over concerns the event would worsen the city's air quality. Sophie Émond, president of La Ronde, which hosts the event on an island off Old Montreal, said it was the company's duty as a corporate citizen to cancel the fireworks scheduled for Thursday night.

"The need to consult with public health and follow their recommendations about holding tonight's fireworks was obvious for us," Émond told reporters Thursday morning.

Dr. David Kaiser, deputy medical director of Montreal's public health department, said a 2022 report on the city's air quality indicated that fireworks displays can lead to concentrations of air pollutants — known as fine particulate matter — of 300 particles per cubic metre, a level considered very unhealthy.

"There is a measurable impact that lasts for a few hours and that touches mostly the neighbourhoods that are surrounding the fireworks show," he told reporters alongside Émond, adding that those areas have some of the worst air quality in the city at normal times, due to vehicle traffic and industrial sites.

Kaiser said public health made its recommendation by considering the potential impact of the fireworks competition and the weather forecasts indicating the air quality in Montreal would be very poor Thursday evening and overnight. "Today, we have a very particular situation where we're expecting high levels tonight and we felt that it was just unacceptable," he said.

Environment Canada issued a smog warning Thursday for the Montreal and Laval areas due to fine particulate matter from forest fires burning across northern Quebec. The department said the smog would continue for several days but conditions would be less severe than a smog event on Sunday, when Environment Canada's air quality health index reached its highest level — 10 or more, which is described as being "very high risk."

Two major fireworks displays, including for Canada Day, have been cancelled in Montreal as air-quality concerns persist because of wildfires burning in northern Quebec. #Wildfires #CanadaDay

There were 108 fires burning in Quebec on Thursday despite recent rain that has reduced the intensity of several of the blazes.

The annual pyrotechnic festival at La Ronde involves teams representing various countries competing against each other with firework displays. This year's participants include Ukraine, Portugal, Belgium, the United States and Finland. Thursday's show was to be put on by La Ronde and not by one of the teams in the competition, Émond said. The next one is scheduled for July 6, presented by Ukraine.

Émond said that due to the competition's complex logistics — which include closing the Jacques Cartier Bridge, over the St. Lawrence River — it's not possible to reschedule the displays. She said the park didn't plan to cancel the competition, scheduled to run until Aug. 10, but would consult with public health before future performances.

"We very much hope that the quality of the air will improve for the coming days and coming weeks and that we'll be able to host this competition," she said.

She said the cost of the cancellation will be significant for La Ronde, which is owned by Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, and for other businesses that benefit from the event, but she declined to give a dollar figure.

Kaiser said that at the moment, public health only planned to release recommendations and wouldn't target specific activities, other than fireworks, but he said some people may want to consider staying inside and avoiding other Montreal festivals if the air quality remains poor.

"If tonight we have (particle) levels that are fairly high … then my recommendation to people who have underlying conditions, who suffer from asthma, who have chronic lung disease, who have chronic heart disease, is to maybe think about not going out to the jazz fest tonight," he said, referring to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2023.

— With files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal

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Slowly but surely citizens are demanding a ban on fireworks in municipalities. As the article stated, the air pollution from fireworks is absolutely terrible (off the charts) and what about the water and soil that absorb the fallout from the pollution. That said, it is the noise that is rallying a lot of citizens against fireworks with wildlife protectors, pet owners, people speaking up for PTSD victims, those with anxiety issues, sleep interruption issues etc. the reasons why. Add to that very tight municipal budgets, and one wonders how long before the 100th monkey kicks in to high gear and other communities follow Mont-Tremblant and immediately ban all fireworks period, full stop. We are beginning to understand, now let's adapt and think outside the box with laser light shows, music, drone light shows etc. Being patriotic or having family fun should no longer mean being destructive.