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Officials say southern Alberta fire risk remains high

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WATCH ABOVE: The wildfire risk in southern Alberta is no longer extreme, thanks to some cooler temperatures of late, but fire officials warn that can change on short notice. Erik Bay reports.

Hot, dry days have been a regular occurrence in southern Alberta this summer, increasing the risk of fires.

But due to hazy days over the weekend caused by wildfire smoke moving into the area, Clayton Rutberg, Coaldale deputy fire chief of operations, said that risk, while still a concern, is no longer extreme.

“As bad as the air quality is, the lower temperatures in the last few days have helped a little bit,” Rutberg said Wednesday.

Read more: Southern Alberta businesses, seniors homes protecting against wildfire smoke

But Rutberg said the way this summer has progressed, it won’t take much to bump that risk back up again.

“If we get a warm day without that moisture in the morning, the risk can change drastically throughout the day and increase to that extreme level, as dry as things are.”

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Luke Palmer, emergency preparedness manager for the City of Lethbridge, said the city is continuing to monitor conditions daily, looking at recent precipitation levels and collaborating with the province to analyze the local fire risk.

A fire ban in the river bottom is still in place, and Palmer said the city is not looking at any additional measures with the current conditions.

Read more: A look at Canada’s wildfires in numbers and graphics over the decades

“We would look at doing a full city fire ban if these conditions got to very extreme levels, which lucky for us, we’re not there yet but we continue to monitor to see if that’s the case,” Palmer said.

Officials are reminding people to take steps to avoid causing unintentional fires.

That includes being careful with where you store one thing that is a common sight during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hand sanitizer is kind of a culprit that’s kind of been around forever but it’s more of a focal point now just because people do have it,” Palmer said.

“Hand sanitizer left in a hot vehicle is potentially flammable and can cause issues.”

Palmer added the biggest fire concern right now for the city is thunderstorms.

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