POLITICS

Nights stay hot and dry, so fires keep spreading, Saskatchewan official says

06/28/2015 06:14 EDT | Updated 06/28/2016 05:59 EDT
REGINA - An official involved in fighting wildfires in Western Canada says even the nights are hot.

Steve Roberts with Saskatchewan's environment ministry says high temperatures and low humidity are continuing through the nights and into the early mornings, which means fires in the province's north continue to spread late into the evenings.

Roberts says the province planned to use an aircraft from Ontario with infrared equipment to help track fires overnight in order to figure out the best places to deploy firefighters in the morning.

Fires close to La Ronge and La Roche in the province's north continued to burn over the weekend, and have already forced many people in those areas to leave their homes due to thick smoke.

In Alberta, almost two dozen new wildfires were reported in a 24-hour period between Saturday and Sunday.

The province says a small amount of rain fell on the western side of the High Level Wildfire Management Area in northwestern Alberta, but several fires continue to burn in the vicinity of the town of High Level.

Temperatures reached into the 30s across much of Alberta and Saskatchewan on Saturday and Sunday. Further west, the temperature was in the high 30s in parts of B.C. over the weekend.

"Our weather forecast is for continued hot, dry conditions, and low chance of precipitation," Roberts told a media briefing on Sunday about the fire conditions in Saskatchewan.

On the bright side, Roberts said the forecast only called for a slight chance of lighting, which often sparks new fires.

Over 200 people were also evacuated from Manitoba's Red Sucker Lake First Nation after a fire crept close to the community late Friday.

Shawn Feely, director of the Canadian Red Cross in Manitoba, said six flights carried elderly community members, young children and others with health conditions to a hotel in Winnipeg.

Fred Harper, who lives in the community, said the fire started on Friday afternoon about a kilometre away. At one point, he said people were afraid it might burn through the hydro line that supplies the First Nation, but he said the fire has since been contained.

"It's very dry. It hasn't rained for quite some time," Harper said from the band office on Sunday.

"Usually, it's wet and then July is a dry month."

Staff at the Calgary Zoo, who normally take extra steps to keep animals cool when temperatures soar, were faced with additional challenges when the facility lost power on Sunday and the thermometer reached 30 C.

Zoo spokesperson Trish Exton-Parder said backup generators were brought in and the zoo was closed, and that all the animals were being looked after.

Air quality was a concern in Vancouver, where the city issued a warning that the weather could produce high levels of ground-level ozone. It explained the ozone was formed when sunlight from pollutants and other organic compounds react with sunlight.

Residents of the city and the Fraser Valley were asked to avoid strenuous outdoor activities during mid-afternoon, when ozone levels are highest.

—by Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton