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Weather helping damp down Alberta wildfires but careless behaviour still a worry

A week of cool, wet temperatures has made a significant difference to Alberta’s wildfire situation but provincial officials are concerned that pleas to be cautious have fallen on some deaf ears.

Investigators out and about in the Calgary forest protection area over the long weekend discovered 25 abandoned campfires, Todd Loewen, Alberta’s forestry and parks minister, said Thursday during a wildfire activity briefing.

“These were quickly extinguished by patrol staff but these easily could have led to new catastrophic wildfire starts,” Loewen said. 

Elsewhere in the province, 33 new starts were detected between Friday and Monday, most of which were “caused by people recreating outdoors,” added Christie Tucker, an Alberta Wildfire information unit manager.

As of Thursday morning, there were 30 active wildfires in the Alberta forest protection area, 20 of which had been started in the previous calendar year.

Alberta Wildfire is also assisting on seven fires that are outside the province’s forest protection areas.

None of the active fires are out of control, including the blaze southwest of Fort McMurray that had forced the evacuation of about 6,600 residents from four neighbourhoods. The fire is now being held. The evacuation order, issued on May 14, was lifted on Saturday.

Tucker said about 45 millimetres of rain fell outside of Fort McMurray over the weekend.

“It was a wet and cool long weekend for most Albertans and those conditions certainly did help the work of firefighters, especially working up north,” she said.

Crews are still working to reinforce containment lines and reduce hot spots on that blaze, she said.

All fire bans and restrictions that were put into place last week have now been lifted.

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