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Wildfires in Alberta halved since emergency declared; fire ban to end Friday


The number of wildfires in Alberta is about half of what it was two-and-a-half weeks ago when the provincial government declared a state of emergency. 

On Thursday afternoon, Alberta Wildfire was counting 55 wildfires in protected forest areas, including 16 which were considered out of control. 

When the provincial state of emergency was announced on May 6, 110 wildfires were burning across Alberta, including 37 that were out of control. 

To date, Alberta Wildfire has recorded some 523 wildfires this year. Altogether, they have burned more than a million hectares of land. 

Recent wet and cooler weather has helped the firefighting effort, but officials said the season is far from over and additional help continues to arrive.

On Thursday, an evacuation order for the Peavine Métis Settlement was lifted, but residents were told to be on a four to six hour evacuation notice in case the situation changes. 

A Hercules air tanker with the capacity to hold 11,350 litres of water from California was scheduled to arrive in Alberta on Wednesday. Twenty-five firefighters from New Zealand and 200 from Australia are also expected to arrive this week. 

"This fire season is not going to end tonight, it's not going to end this week. This is a long-haul fight for us," said Christie Tucker of Alberta Wildfire in Thursday's update.

"We need to remain flexible as far as bringing in help, because the work that is happening on the ground is going to be going on for months to come."

Due to improving conditions, the fire ban across Alberta will change to a fire restriction Friday morning. Wood campfires will be allowed in designated campgrounds and on private property, but will remain banned on public land.

"We're taking a cautious approach to prevent as many wildfires as possible, but as long as it's safe to do so we want Alberans to be able to enjoy the outdoors," Tucker said.

Fire bans will remain in place in areas still experiencing high risk, including the High Level, Fort McMurray and Yellowhead County areas.

The number of evacuation orders has dropped to seven, and around 5,379 Albertans are still displaced. 

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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