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Firefighters make progress, bring some Quebec wildfires under control

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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – The number of wildfires raging out of control across Quebec dropped on Sunday as firefighters in the Canadian province gained the upper hand in some areas, a provincial minister said on Sunday.

Quebec Natural Resources Minister Maite Blanchette Vezina said told reporters that the number of out-of-control fires in the eastern province dropped to 44 from 72 on Saturday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp reported.

Canada is enduring its worst-ever spring fire season, with 431 active fires as of Sunday, up five from Saturday, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

By Monday, around 1,200 firefighters, including more than 100 from France and some from other provinces, are expected to be battling blazes across Quebec.

“With the resources we got from France and New Brunswick, the situation is more safe,” Blanchette Vezina said, adding that authorities were not yet ready to send many evacuated residents home.

A federal government meteorologist forecast on Saturday that Quebec could receive light rain on Tuesday in some burning areas.

In Alberta, the provincial government warned that fires were becoming increasingly unpredictable and moving closer to the evacuated town of Edson, 200 km (125 miles) west of the provincial capital Edmonton.

A fire south of Edson is growing and now spans 204,000 hectares (504,095 acres), local officials said in an online update on Sunday.

“Last Wednesday, we thought we could close down our emergency control center and come Friday, that idea went out the door when the fires went out of control very drastically,” said Luc Mercier, chief administrative officer for Yellowhead County.

The Pacific province of British Columbia is also fighting a large number of fires, including one that has burned within four kilometres of the northeastern B.C. community of Tumbler Ridge.

Shifting winds have helped firefighters battle that blaze in the Rocky Mountain foothills, but warmer, drier temperatures on Sunday may cause the fire to grow, said Karley Desrosiers, information officer for B.C. Wildfire Service.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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