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Rain helps fire crews in northern Alberta

Dropping water on a forest fire
Dropping water on a forest fire

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

June 15, 2011 — The wildfire burning in the Richardson backcountry, north of Fort McMurray, Alberta is said to be nine times the size of the city of Edmonton. Recent rain is now helping the situation.

Smoke rises from a wildfire in Alberta
Smoke rises from a wildfire in Alberta

Crews battling a massive wildfire in northern Alberta are getting a little help from Mother Nature.

Rain has been soaking the area around the Richardson wildfire - the biggest to rage in the province's recent history. Right now, the size of the fire is about the distance from Edmonton to Red Deer.

However, with rain comes the risk of lightning, and that is believed to be the cause of many fires currently burning in the province.

Geoffrey Driscoll, a wildfire information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said since the Richardson fire started on May 14th, winds have pushed it more than 100 kilometres to the north. That's influencing how crews are battling the fire.

“What we're trying to do is just stop the spread,” Driscoll said. “We're putting in fire guards and our firefighters will go in and reinforce that.”

Currently, more than 400 firefighters and numerous air tankers are working around the clock to maintain the fire's perimeter..

Driscoll said this fire is one of the largest Alberta has seen since 1930.

“It's definitely not going to be extinguished for another couple of months,” he said.

The Richardson backcountry fire has prompted the evacuation of some oilfield facilities near Fort McMurray and produced enough smoke to prompt air quality advisories as far south as Edmonton.

With files from Lyndsay Morrison

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