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These shots from the NWT government show the scale of the burning.

Wildfire risk rising in the west

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, July 13, 2014, 12:00 PM -

Temperatures are high, and they're only getting hotter, in British Columbia and Alberta, complicating a growing wildfire threat.

Rainfall across those two provinces has been well below the seasonal average, and the dry conditions have made wildfire fighting a nightmare for authorities.

The Northwest Territories has been the site of several huge fires, together scorching more than 200,000 hectares of land and raising smoke plumes that have blown as far south as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Around 220 firefighters are working the lines in the Northwest Territories, but the threat is growing in Alberta also, where a fire near Slave Lake has burned more than 100,000 hectares. It's tied down 100 firefighters and nine aircraft, and forced the evacuation of a nearby gas plant and wildlife observation platform.

Two others are causing headaches for authorities, including one which has forced the closure of the woods near Rocky Mountain House.

Meanwhile, neighbouring B.C. is gripped by a heat wave that has pushed temperatures near 40oC in some communities.

In northern B.C. near the Alberta boundary, more than 100 firefighters are battling a blaze that's burned 45 square kilometres near Tumbler Ridge and has forced 200 people to evacuate three nearby oil and gas camps.

Firefighters are also working on smaller fires near Quesnel and Williston Lake, both of which started last week.

B.C. in particular can expect no relief from the heat until at least midweek, thanks to a pattern that is bringing sweltering temperatures to the west and a below-seasonal cooldown to eastern Canada.

With files from the Canadian Press. Thumbnail image courtesy NWT Fire.

IN DEPTH: Read our expert analysis of the heat wave by Weather Network meteorologist Monica Vaswani.

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