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Wildfires are dampening against cool, rainy weather, but there's plenty left to contain

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An opportune system of cool, wet weather Friday is dampening the spread of wildfires across Western Canada, but there's still plenty of work for responders and residents alike.

Here are some of the latest updates as this year's sprawling wildfire season marches on.

How many fires are currently burning?

As of Friday evening, the most recent figures from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) show 115 active fires burning across Canada, dropping from 125 Thursday afternoon.

The data shows that 30 fires are considered out of control, while 12 are being held and 73 are under control.

At last tally, Canada's agencies have recorded 1,078 wildfires this season, including those from last year that remain active and two more that started on Friday. The fires have collectively burned a total of 392,100 hectares, or 3,921 square kilometres, of Canadian land, according to CIFFC estimates.

The CIFFC says that significant wildland fire activity is occurring with "incident management actively engaged."

The organization also said that demand and mobilization of "interagency resources" is moderate to high, with wildland fires considered "normal" for this time of the year.

By region, Alberta leads the country for the most fires on their hands at 42, followed by B.C. with 41, Northwest Territories with nine, Saskatchewan with seven, Manitoba with five, New Brunswick with two and Ontario with one.

An additional eight wildfires are active and under the jurisdiction of Parks Canada.

What impact have the fires had?

As wildfires have appeared, shifted and spread across vast swaths of Canada's rural northwest, thousands of local residents have come under evacuation orders, forcing them to abandon their homes for fear that their communities will be overtaken by the blazes.

In Fort McMurray, Alta., where a 2016 fire dubbed "The Beast" burnt more than 2,000 homes and businesses to ash and pushed more than 80,000 evacuees from the area, this year's season has seen 6,600 residents temporarily relocated, so far. Local schools and other government services have suspended operations as the 20,000-hectare (200-square-kilometre) fire looms within six kilometres of the city limits, stalled, for the time being, with the help of advantageous weather conditions.

Meanwhile, 700 kilometres to the northwest, all 4,700 residents of Fort Nelson, B.C., have come under an evacuation order as the community sits at the nexus of no fewer than five large wildfires, each measured within the past 72 hours to span 10,000 hectares or more in size.

The largest clocks in at over 83,000 hectares to the town's east, and the closest, at 12,000 hectares as of Thursday, lies just 16 kilometres from Fort Nelson, as the crow flies. All five of the wildfires are out of control, as of Tuesday at the earliest.

And on the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border, a 37,000-hectare blaze east of Flin Flon, Man. has given rise to 675 people fleeing cottage subdivisions and other residences in and around the community of nearby Cranberry Portage.

None of the evacuation orders carry exact timelines for return, according to their respective local officials.

What can we expect from the days to come?

Like so many things, good and bad, wildfire season is highly weather-dependent, and for the time being, the news is largely good.

Cooler temperatures and a vital bout of rain are expected in portions the northern Prairies, with below-seasonal temperatures in Flin Flon and Fort McMurray.

B.C., meanwhile, is expected to see drier and warming conditions, with Fort Nelson set for temperatures approaching 18 C and the potential for a coming thunderstorm.

As fires burn across the country, smoke is expected to drift south, though potential air quality impacts of note are localized to the B.C. interior. Alternating precipitation in the southern Prairies is expected to lessen those impacts.

Residents in proximity to wildfire smoke are recommended to monitor air quality reports through Environment Canada's air quality index, as well as its weather alert system.

Like so many things, good and bad, wildfire season is highly weather-dependent, and for the time being, the news is largely good.

Cooler temperatures and a vital bout of rain are expected in portions the northern Prairies, with below-seasonal temperatures in Flin Flon and Fort McMurray.

B.C., meanwhile, is expected to see drier and warming conditions, with Fort Nelson set for temperatures approaching 18 C and the potential for a coming thunderstorm.

As fires burn across the country, smoke is expected to drift south, though potential air quality impacts of note are localized to the B.C. interior. Alternating precipitation in the southern Prairies is expected to lessen those impacts.

Residents in proximity to wildfire smoke are recommended to monitor air quality reports through Environment Canada's air quality index, as well as its weather alert system.

This is a developing story; more to come.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News writer Mitchell Consky

 

This screen capture shows current weather advisories as of 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday, May 17, 2024. At time of writing, Environment Canada maintains air quality statements for the regions of Fort Nelson and North Peace River, B.C. (Environment Canada)

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