05/07/2013 10:15 EDT | Updated 07/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Open fires banned as forest fires burn across Quebec

With about a dozen forest fires currently burning across Quebec, the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources has banned open fires for an undetermined amount of time.

Éloïse Richard, a spokeswoman for SOPFEU, Quebec’s forest fire protection agency, said the ban was necessary because of a higher than normal number of fires.

This season, the province has already seen 167 fires, which beats the ten year average of 93 for this time of year.

The number of fires continues to fluctuate and the danger is especially high in southern parts of the province, as well as in Central Quebec.

Richard attributed the majority of the fires to nearby residents as well as farmers clearing their fields and burning brush and debris in or near forests.

Still, the recent hot and dry conditions in southern parts of the province make it easy for fires to spread.

“We didn’t have a lot of rain in [the past week or so], and it’s very dry and hot there,” she said.

“It’s very easy to cause fires by negligence.”

No major fires have been reported. The largest fire, in Pontiac in the Gatineau region, covers about 10 hectares or about a dozen soccer pitches.

Firefighters had to call in water bomber airplanes to help battle at least one of them.

Officials said the fire on Mount Saint-Hilaire was small, but not easily accessible.

Richard said the ban on open fires will be re-evaluated as some cool and wet weather is set to move in across the province later in the week.