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The Siphon Creek wildfire in northeastern B.C., as seen on May 5, 2016.

B.C. Wildfire Service

Investigators say arson is believed to be the cause of at least 10 wildfires in northeastern British Columbia.

The Environment Ministry said fire investigators and conservation officers have found evidence to suggest the fires in the Peace region were deliberately set.

Some of the fires have caused property damage, said Chris Postuma with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.

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He declined to provide details, saying an investigation is ongoing.

The blazes are believed to be connected, and the extra conservation officers brought in to help investigate are asking for tips from the public.

The Peace region has been hit by an early and aggressive start to the fire season as flames have been fanned by hot, dry and windy conditions.

Hundreds of people forced from their homes by a pair of uncontained fires burning north of Fort St. John were allowed to return Sunday, but 17,000 residences remain on evacuation alert and must be prepared to leave again at any time.

Provincial fire information officer Ryan Turcot said 84 fires are currently burning across the province, including 52 in the northeast region.

Wet weather helped firefighting crews over the weekend, with rain and some snow falling on two major blazes, Turcot said.

"But moving ahead into the week, we are expecting a return to drier conditions."

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There have been 234 fires across the province since April 1, Turcot said, more than double the 110 fires that had burned at this time last year.

It's estimated that this year's blazes have scorched more than 775 square kilometres, over 40 times the 10-year average, he said.

The majority of this year's fires have been caused by people, Turcot said.

Earlier this year, the Forests Ministry increased fines for a variety of wildfire-related violations, such as ignoring campfire bans or failing to properly extinguish a burning substance, such as a cigarette.

Breaking a fire prohibition can net fines of up to $1,100.

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