Smoke chokes Yellowknife as forest fires continue to burn

Flames engulf trees in the North West Territories as more then 160 fires burn across the territory...

Flames engulf trees in the North West Territories as more then 160 fires burn across the territory in mid July, 2014. Environment Canada has issued a high health risk warning for Yellowknife and surrounding area because of heavy smoke in the region due to forest fires. Department of Environment and Natural Resources/Handout/QMI Agency

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:25 PM ET

Forest fires have destroyed more than 893,000 hectares in the Northwest Territories, but officials there say the blazes aren't always a bad thing.

Forest fires "are the most significant and natural disturbance on the N.W.T.'s Boreal forest ecosystem for renewing the landscape. When forests get old and non-productive they set themselves up for fire. This helps not only the forest but the wildlife that lives within it," NWTFire said on its Facebook page.

Smoke continues to be an issue in communities, including the North Slave Region and Yellowknife. The main highway leading into Yellowknife is periodically closed due to heavy smoke.

Lightning has been blamed for the majority of fires in the territory.

In British Columbia some residents remain out of their homes while hundreds remain on standby as crews battle wildfires.

The province has lifted evacuation orders for many residents in the southeast's Central Okanagan Regional District, but warned the Smith Creek fire "remains active and residents returning to their homes...should be prepared to leave their homes on short notice."

An evacuation order for an oil and gas field near the Alberta border has also been rescinded, although there is restricted access to the area.

In western Alberta, weekend rains helped quell a fire in the Grande Prairie area, but Alberta Emergency Alert said late Monday the fire has caused a local state of emergency and evacuation order for the Municipal District of Greenview. Officials told people to avoid the area, where smoke has limited visibility.

Smoke from the fires is expected as far south as Regina and Calgary, with significant smoke throughout much of the Northwest Territories and near Jasper, Alta.


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