The northern Manitoba town of Gillam is blanketed in smoke and under a voluntary evacuation order for residents.

The area is the hot spot for forest fires in the province right now.

"Yesterday, the street lights were coming on in Gillam in the afternoon [because it's so smoky].  But hopefully the wind is going to shift this afternoon, so it should provide some relief to that area," said Gary Friesen of Manitoba Conservation's fire program.

He said crews are keeping a close watch on the area, where the situation is volatile and can change quickly.

Eight new fires are burning in the province but overall the number is fewer than in a typical year at this time.

There have been 175 forest fires in Manitoba so far in 2013. The average number for this time of year is 263.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement about the situation in central and northern Manitoba, and about the possible health risks associated with the reduced air quality.

Some smoke has also drifted into southern Manitoba, leading to slightly hazy conditions, and a red sunrise and sunset.