Alberta wildfire fighters prepare for hot, dry days ahead

By Nia Williams

(Reuters) -An extended period of hot, dry weather that risks worsening wildfires in Alberta began on Friday, with special weather alerts in place across western Canada and officials urging people to be vigilant.

More than 100 wildfires have ignited across Alberta since last week, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and oil and gas producers to shut in at least 319,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), or 3.7% of the country's production.

A few days of cooler weather and rain helped firefighters tackle some blazes. There were 74 fires burning and about 16,500 evacuees as of Friday afternoon, officials in Alberta said in a briefing.

Although recent cooling helped to restore most of the shuttered oil and gas production, expectations of rising temperatures over the weekend have raised concerns about further production cuts and evacuations.

Earlier on Friday, Crescent Point Energy said it has now restarted 85% of the 45,000 boepd of production that it shut in due to the wildfire risk.

"The wildfire danger is expected to grow in the coming days," an Alberta Wildfire official said at the briefing. "We are expecting hot and dry conditions in most of the province, which will make the wildfire danger climb."

Benchmark Canadian heavy crude prices have tightened this week to multi-month highs on concerns about wildfires in Alberta.

"Everybody is looking at the weather," said one Calgary-based trader. "There's a higher probability for more disruption than less."

The highest temperatures are expected to hit from Sunday to Tuesday.

"Maximum daytime highs will be close to 30 degrees (centigrade) which would be 10 to 15 degrees above seasonal values," federal ministry Environment Canada said in a special weather statement.

Around 200 soldiers have been deployed around Alberta to help fight the fires, and another 100 will be deployed over the weekend.

(Reporting by Nia Williams, with additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Alistair Bell and Bill Berkrot)