Provincial officials have issued a warning about a fire northwest of Calgary in the Municipal District of Bighorn.

The 63-hectare fire is burning north of Highway 579 just west of Water Valley, and heavy smoke is reducing visibility in the area.

“Alberta Transportation has closed Highway 579 at this time (until further notice), as crews continue to work on a forest fire in the area,” said anAlberta Emergency Alert on Monday afternoon. “The section of Highway 579 that is closed is from Highway 40 to a point approximately 26 kilometres west of Water Valley.”

The fire is contained but is still considered out of control. Officials say no homes are threatened.

“We have about 20 firefighters on this wildfire, including three helicopters, and we’ve also brought in a heavy equipment group to start to build a fire guard around the fire to prevent the spread,” said provincial wildfire information officer Janelle Lane.

People camping or travelling nearby are being asked to voluntarily leave, if it’s safe to do so, and avoid the area.

Full fire ban for forested areas

Officials announced a full fire ban to take effect at noon on Monday.

The fire ban prohibits all open fires in Alberta’s forest protection area, which is about 60 per cent of the province.

It covers campfires in campgrounds, backcountry and random camping areas.

Jurisdictions outside the zone, including municipalities and provincial parks, may issue their own restrictions, the province says.

Since April 1, there have been 629 wildfires that have burned over 13,000 hectares.

As of late Monday night there were 71 fires burning in the province, with 27 considered out of control. It is believed 23 of those fires were caused by lightning strikes in the province.

Since 10 p.m. MT on Sunday, there have been 56 new wildfires.