A giant fireball is seen as a wildfire rips through the forest 16 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, Alberta on Highway 63 on May 7, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Alberta is ablaze. Unseasonably hot, dry weather has sparked wildfires across north and central Alberta. The fires have spread so fast and so far that they may consume a record-breaking area of the province’s forests this year.

How it started

Alberta had a very dry spring with only half of the usual amount of precipitation. A high-pressure system settled in at the end of April, bringing strong winds and record-high temperatures. The heat seared the already-parched vegetation.