MONTREAL: Authorities in the western Canadian province of Alberta battling devastating wildfires have closed twelve local parks ahead of the long holiday weekend, fearing fresh flames, officials said Friday.

Alberta has declared a state of emergency and asked for foreign aid with more than 800,000 hectares of land destroyed in fires and thousands of people evacuated since the beginning of the month.

On Friday, there were 94 active forest fires in the province, 26 of which were out of control, according to officials.

The situation was also dire in neighboring British Columbia with 22 out-of-control fires and dozens of evacuation orders issued.

All of Alberta's 12 parks will be closed, state officials announced.

“As the province heads into a hot and dry May long weekend, the current wildfire situation in Alberta remains volatile,“ said Colin Blair with the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

“It is critical that all Albertans remain vigilant and closely follow updates on the wildfire situation across the province.”

Christie Tucker of the Alberta Wildfire Fire Department said nearly half fires are started by people.

“We will manage the wildfire situation in the face of extreme conditions and we ask Albertans for their help, too,“ she said. “Don’t be responsible for starting a new wildfire.”

Temperatures are expected to hit 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) this weekend, again above seasonal norms. And rescuers say the long weekend in May is often when the human-caused forest fires occur.

Over 2,500 emergency workers have already been deployed to fight the fires and some 110 additional American firefighters are due to arrive over the next few days.

After more than two weeks of intense fires, poor air quality warnings were in effect in the west and center of the country and in several adjacent US states.

In recent years, western Canada has been hit repeatedly by extreme weather events, the intensity and frequency of which have increased due to global warming. - AFP

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