07/13/2012 02:26 EDT | Updated 09/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Hot, dry conditions plague southern Quebec

It's shaping up to be a dry, hot summer and this weekend is expected to be a scorcher in southern Quebec.

That's translated into an increased risk for forest fires and increasingly low water levels in the areas waterways.

Weather conditions have been very hot and dry since July 4, when rain last fell in southern Quebec. The last rainfall prior to July 4 was on June 27.

Since the beginning of the season, there have been 422 forest fires in Quebec. That's well above the 10 year average of 384 fires at this time of year.

In light of the dry conditions, Quebec's forest fire protection agency has issued a ban on open fires in certain areas of the Outaouais, the Laurentians, Lanaudière, and Abitibi-Témiscamigue.

The ban came into effect Thursday and will continue until the fire risk has decreased.

As of July 12, the agency reported seven active forest fires in the province.

Heat warning issued

Montreal's public health agency issued a heat warning Friday, urging caregivers to watch elderly, chronically ill and toddlers for signs of overheating.

Symptoms of some chronic diseases, like chronic respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses, are exacerbated by the heat and sufferers may not be able to adequately respond, the agency warned.

Babies and young children should be closely monitored because they dehydrate quickly and can't always express their discomfort.

In the summer of 2010, an extreme heat wave in Montreal contributed to the deaths of more than 100 people, according to public health.

The agency is advising Montrealers to watch for symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, headache and confusion or fever and contact their doctor or Info-Santé if the symptoms persist.

Temperatures in Montreal are expected to hit 32 C today and inch higher on Saturday.

Some relief may be in sight Sunday when rain could fall, but the chance of precipitation was still hovering at around 40 per cent.

Low water levels

Water levels in and around the St. Lawrence River have also been hit hard by the dry conditions.

They're at marks that haven't been seen in at least a century.

It's become so severe that some transport ships have had to reduce their loads to avoid scraping the bottom of the river.

According to Environment Canada, the water levels are suffering because of smaller snowfalls in the winter and drop in rainfall in recent months.

Low water levels in the L'Assomption River are at a critical point, and have triggered watering bans in communities south and east of Montreal.