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Wildfires burn across the Prairie provinces


The risk for fire is still extreme in some regions.
The risk for fire is still extreme in some regions.

Staff writers

May 17, 2012 — Fires continue to burn in sections of the Prairies, while some residents wait for word that they can return home.

Water bombers attack the flames in Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan
Water bombers attack the flames in Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan

Warm temperatures, strong winds and dry conditions have led to all kinds of problems for fire fighters across the Prairie provinces this week. Flames have been burning out of control in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba prompting home evacuations in some cases.

ALBERTA

In Alberta, twelve families were forced to leave the Bonnyville area because of an approaching fire. An evacuation order was issued Tuesday night, but residents were given the 'okay' to return to their homes on Wednesday.

Fire fighters were able to halt the fire's advance late Tuesday, but the flames are still considered 'out of control.'

As of Wednesday night, there were 41 wildfires burning in the province. Whitney Exton is a Wildfire Information Officer. She says the Alberta fire season got off to an early start this year. 

"It was fairly dry over the winter and we even had some fires in the winter," Exton explains. "We did see wildfires starting even in January." 

Exton adds that despite it being a warm, dry spring, Mother Nature has helped crews get the upper hand on fires over the last couple of days. 

"The cooler weather and the little bit of rain we saw it helping them make progress," she says. 

On Friday, a burn ban that was in place for most of the week was lifted, but officials are urging residents to exercise extreme caution.

SASKATCHEWAN

Wildfires also forced 130 people from their homes in western Saskatchewan, but some rain and the efforts of firefighters knocked back the flames to the point where the residents were safely able to return to their homes Thursday. 

The people from the Onion Lake First Nation and in the Rural Municipality of Frenchman Butte were told to leave on Wednesday because of an approaching fire. They may have to leave again if the conditions worsen. 

Flames in the area are considered to be under control and no homes were damaged. Crews are still working to put out hot spots on the ground and from the air.

Fire burns near Bonnyville, AB
Fire burns near Bonnyville, AB

MANITOBA

Wildfires continue to burn in southeastern Manitoba, but residents of Badger are finally allowed to return home. 

On Wednesday. crews were able to get a handle on three major fires on Wednesday. Conservation authorities are now warning that the smoke from the fires may pose a health hazard to those in the area.

Earlier this week, a state of emergency was declared in the Rural Municipality of Piney because of wildfires in the area. Crews, waterbombers, single-engine aircrafts and 60 fire fighters were deployed to battle the flames.

The cause of the fire was reportedly due to a combination of dry conditions, hot wind, and resinous pines.

"The biggest problem we have is the high temperatures, low relative humidity, strong winds and the variable winds," says Gary Friesen, Manager of the Manitoba Conservation Fire Program. "Fire fighters will work on one flank and then the winds shift and turn the fire right around."

Travel restrictions and burn bans remain in place, and anyone caught in violation of the bans will be fined $500.

Luckily, rain is in the forecast for Manitoba tonight. That should help combat the remaining fires.

Check the risk of forest fires in your province by checking The Weather Network's Forest Fire Watch: Fire Danger Map.


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