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NWT wildfires prompt health warnings

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 10:16 AM -

[Thumbnail credit:Kelly Pennycook, Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories, and Dennis Quintillo].

The intense wildfires burning in the Northwest Territories have prompted a health warning from Environment Canada for the city of Yellowknife, due to a high health risk from the smoke.

The numerous fires still burning haven't triggered any evacuation orders just yet, but they've taxed the territory's fire suppression resources to capacity and caused other problems, such as intermittent road closures. 

Highway 3 from Fort Providence to Edzo was closed Tuesday night, and was briefly closed from Yellowknife to Behchoko.

More than 150 fires are burning in the Northwest Territories. The vast majority are listed as being monitored, but 15 are listed as out of control or being held, in the North Slave, South Slave and Sahtu regions.

Below-seasonal rainfall has led to very dry conditions in Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, ideal for wildfire starts.

In Alberta, more than 270 firefighters are battling wildfires, one of which sparked an evacuation order in the MD of Greenview No. 16, south of Grand Prairie, due to a fire burning across the border with B.C. 

Over the weekend, a fire near Slave Lake forced the evacuation of a gas plant and wildlife monitoring platform.

In B.C., high-to-extreme wildfire risk covers almost all of the province, especially the northern Interior, where air quality advisories are in effect for the Cariboo, Prince George and Peace River areas.

Dozens of wildfires are burning in B.C., with around 15 of them listed as out of control.

Notable fires include a 12,000-hectare blaze near Williston Lake that has tied down 20 firefighters, and another 10,000 hectare fire burning near Chetwynd.

That fire is currently being monitored, and it has sparked an evacuation order for the area southwest of Hudson's Hope, one of a handful of evacuation orders in effect due to the fires.

All this comes at a time when the west is gripped by blistering hot temperatures that have pushed the mercury close to the 40-degree mark in some communities.

However, looking ahead, it looks like there may be some relief on the way, temperature-wise.

A new developing low is increasing the risk of storms in Alberta on Thursday, but temperatures are expected to be cooler after the passage of the front.

In B.C., the ridge that has kept temperatures so high is slowly breaking down.

"So temperatures are not expected to be as hot as previous days, but it'll still be very hot," Weather Network meteorologist Monica Vaswani said Wednesday morning. "The first sign of rain in B.C. is expected on Friday. This will allow temperatures to moderate as well into the weekend."

RELATED: See the altest footage of Typhoon Rammasun.

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