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Rain, even smoke help fight wildfires in Alberta; new blaze brings evacuation in British Columbia


EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Scattered rains and even smoke cover cooled air temperatures and helped efforts to fight wildfires in Alberta over the weekend, officials said Sunday, while a new fire in neighboring British Columbia led to an evacuation order for one rural area.

As the heavy smoke brought cooler temperatures, it also limited the ability to fly firefighting aircraft and it can harm the health of people having to breathe it, authorities added.

“I couldn’t say one outweighs the other. We will take advantage of any opportunity we have, and if it’s providing an opportunity for more on-the-ground firefighting, then that’s what we’re able to do,” Christie Tucker, an Alberta fire official, said at a news conference.

Tucker said only five new wildfires started between Friday morning and Sunday morning, part of which he attributed to Albertans respecting restrictions on fires and ATV use. Overall Sunday, 84 fires burned in the province, 23 of which were out of control. More than 10,000 people were sheltering away from their homs.

“While we are optimistic that the forecast rain will be enough to make a difference to some wildfires in the province, we are not out of the woods yet,” Tucker said.

In British Columbia, which has also been plagued by wildfires, an out-of-control blaze that sprang up led officials to order the evacuation of an area near Tzenzaicut Lake about 600 kilometers (375 miles) north of Vancouver. Firefighters had to abandon one property.

Jessica Mack, a spokeswoman for the Cariboo Fire Centre, said crews were using heavy equipment and firefighting aircraft to combat the growing blaze.

Officials said a number of major wildfires remained in both the Cariboo and Peace River regions, but changing wind directions and cooler weather helped fightfighters temper the spread of those blazes.

In the Cariboo region, an evacuation alert was lifted for the communities of Anahim Lake and the Ulkatcho First Nation.