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‘How Could This Happen?’: Canadian Fires Burning Where They Rarely Have Before

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When Liz Gouari was making plans to move from Africa to join her husband in a rural stretch of northern Quebec, he promised her that Canada was a tranquil nation.

But on Wednesday, the couple was among dozens of people sitting in stunned disbelief in an evacuation center after the entire city where they lived was forced to flee from a raging wildfire.

The blaze tore through the forest and bore down on their city, Chibougamau, one of the countless Canadian communities affected by an extraordinary outbreak of forest fires whose smoke has blotted out skies across swaths of North America and forced millions indoors because of hazardous air quality.

Growing up in the Republic of Congo, Ms. Gouari and her husband, Rey Steve Mabiala, said they were familiar with evacuations of all sorts — he had once fled fighting by hiding in a tropical forest — and with how floods and droughts made worse by climate change were causing major displacements on the continent.

“Back home in Africa, there are many climate refugees, but I never thought I would become one in Canada,” said Mr. Mabiala, 42,…

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