EDMONTON -- Environment Canada is warning residents of Parkland County of poor air quality and visibility so long as a wildfire burns near Tomahawk.

The agency issued a special air quality statement shortly before 6 a.m., but noted conditions could improve later in the morning.

“However, it may be poor at times again while the fire is active.”

Crews were trying to surround the blaze with fire breaks while air crews dumped thousands of litres of water from the air. While rain over the weekend provided some relief, Amber Coleman, deputy fire chief for Parkland County, said the area is rich in peat moss which can smolder for weeks or months. She told CTV News Edmonton on Monday the warmer temperatures and possible thunderstorms that are expected in the coming days will make containment harder.

As of Tuesday morning, about 65 per cent of the 2,200-hectare fire was contained. Evacuees began to return home the day before. 

In Environment Canada’s Tuesday forecast, the air quality health index was expected to be about a two (low risk) near the communities of Spruce Grove, Morinville, Mayerthorpe and Evansburg – but a level 10 (high risk) for smoke.

The wildfire broke out Thursday. A state of local emergency was still in effect until late Tuesday morning and road traffic was limited to locals only. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson and Adam Lachacz