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Extreme heat, dry conditions prompt concerns in Central and Eastern Canada

Seven-year-old Maeve Walsh beats the heat as she cools down in a fountain at Westmount park in Montreal Sunday, July 15, 2012.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Extreme heat and dry conditions in parts of Central and Eastern Canada have led to a surge in forest fires, limits on water use, and concerns about farmer crops.

This summer has seen record-setting temperatures in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, along with far less rain than normal in many areas.

"We've definitely beaten a few records in a few areas," Roberta Diaconesco of Environment Canada said Sunday.

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"Compared to other years, yes, we could say that it's pretty hot and humid."

Montreal, for example, normally gets over 90 millimetres of rain in July, but has only had 21 mm so far this year, Ms. Diaconesco said.

Some parts of southern Quebec haven't had rain since July 4, causing the St. Lawrence River to drop to levels that haven't been seen in years.

Corn farmers in Ontario have raised concerns the dry conditions will make it difficult for pollination, while in Quebec apple growers project the crop will be down 15 per cent from last year.

Melanie Morin, a spokeswoman for Quebec's forest fire monitoring service, said there have already been 460 forest fires in 2012 — more than 50 above average for this time of year.

"It's been very dry for most of the southern part of the province we've been more than two weeks without rain," she said.

A campfire ban is in effect in many parts of Quebec and Morin said there are concerns lighting storms in the forecast could lead to more fires.

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The hot weather is expected to continue into mid-week, when a cold front comes in that could bring some rain, Diaconesco said.

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