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Forest fire season in full swing across Prairies


May 20, 2010 — Fires that have been burning near Edmonton, and north of Prince George, are now under control, but the same can't be said for flames in Manitoba.

Record temperatures of 31 degrees combined with strong winds. That's enough to build the strength of a brush fire. And that's exactly what's been happening in northern Alberta.

A stubborn fire near the Opal community, just north of Edmonton, broke out last week and has continued to spread. The fire has burned about 30-square kilometres of land. So far, a home, a barn and several cars and small buildings have been destroyed.

The good news is that with a little help from the skies Tuesday night, crews were able to get a hold on the flames. Rain moved into the region providing some relief from the hot and dry conditions.

According to Weather Network meteorologist Brian Dillon, the weather will continue to help crews. “After showers and isolated thunderstorms rolled through northern Alberta on Tuesday evening, the cold front passing through will help to lower temperatures and the humidity.”

And that's precisely what's happening now. Both northern and central Alberta will be getting decent rain today, which should help quench some of the flames. Even better, the really hot temperatures the province saw earlier this week have now tapered off, making it much cooler. The brisker weather will continue over the next few days, which is good news for emergency workers.

There were also concerns that the gusty winds would carry sparks and embers over a fire guard, but fortunately that hasn't happen. Now, the plan is to stregthen the guard as a preventative measure for if the winds return. Around 11 families were evacuated from their homes earlier this week, but have since been able to return.

Meanwhile, fire crews have been battling flames in other parts of the Prairies. An evacuation order was lifted for 60 homes north of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan after threats from a potentially dangerous forest fire. Mother Nature lent a helping hand when cooler temperatures blew through the region yesterday.

And today, the weather is helping to ease the situation again. There's a risk of widespread thundershowers across the province and the warm temperatures will continue to drop off over the next few days.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Manitoba. The dry ground and gusty winds are causing problems for central portions of the province. The first big wild fire of 2010 is raging near Lake Winnipeg, and it's burnt nearly 35 square km so far. Crews are working to control the flames near the community of Berens River.

The warm dry spring is being blamed for the outbreak. Still, the problem remains -- the province is expected to stay warm over the next day or so and there's no real chance of thundershowers until the weekend.

You can keep track of the Forest Fire Watch in your area.

And for the latest details on this story and other weather news, tune into The Weather Network on TV.

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