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Fire activity picks up Sunday with return of hot, dry conditions

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Fire activity in Alberta picked up overnight Saturday, with Alberta Wildfire counting 57 wildfires Sunday afternoon, including 17 which were classified as out of control.

The day before, there were 49 wildfires for which the provincial department was leading the firefighting. Fourteen of those were out of control.

Among the largest is the 132,000-hectare Long Lake fire in northwestern Alberta near the B.C. border and community of Rainbow Lake and the 78,000-hectare Paskwa fire affecting the communities of Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta. Both fires had grown in size Sunday.

"Firefighters expected to see increased wildfire activity over the weekend, and we did," said Melissa Story of Alberta Wildfire.

Seven new wildfires started between Saturday and Sunday's updates, with the majority due to lightning strikes in the northern region.

"This serves as a good reminder that we are still in wildfire season, and with many months ahead of us," Story added.

A fire ban and off-highway vehicle restrictions are still in place in northern and central Alberta due to continuing dry conditions and extreme fire risk.

The City of Edmonton also remains under a fire ban.

Officials are asking Albertans to check their area and follow any fire bans and restrictions in place.

Around 5,257 Albertans remained unable to go home, but the number of evacuation orders had dropped to four.

"While this is encouraging, there continues to be elevated fire activity with shifting winds and warmer temperatures," said Bre Hutchinson from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

"With dry conditions persisting, there is still a chance that fire activity could increase as the week progresses."

When the Alberta government declared a state of emergency on May 6, there were 110 wildfires burning in the province.

So far in the 2023 wildfire season, more than 1.6 million hectares has been burned.

"This is almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island," Story said.

The state of emergency is set to expire on June 3. Premier Danielle Smith said Friday the next government – which will be elected May 29 – will decide whether or not to extend it.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Edmonton's Alex Antoneshyn 

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