Environment Canada has issued a special air quality statement for central and northern Manitoba.

Smoke from forest fires is spreading across the north.

Extensive smoke is expected to persist Thursday night and Friday, with more pronounced smoke at night. It should ease during the day. Visibilities will be reduced.

Environment Canada says the air quality health index will be moderate to high, which means a higher health risk. AQHI is designed to help Canadians protect their health from the negative effects of air pollution.

Manitoba Conservation reports 51 active fires burning in the province as of July 4, with 48 in the northeast region and 3 in the east.

High temperatures continue in dry, forested areas, which increases the danger of wildfires.

Firefighters are working to contain lightning-sparked fires north and east of Lake Winnipeg.

A fire near Gillam grew Wednesday due to strong winds and heat. Water bombers and fire crews have been able to keep the fire approximately 28 kilometers from Gillam and Fox Lake.