Firefighters used chemicals to bring on a snowfall early Thursday that helped extinguish a raging forest fire in northern China, a government official and state media reported.

Light snow fell for about one hour after shells containing silver iodide were fired into the sky above the burning forest near Hulunbuir, a small settlement in the sprawling Inner Mongolia region north of Beijing, an official at the regional fire fighting headquarters said.

The official, Ah Yongge, said the snow appeared to have helped bring the fire under control, but said he wasn't sure about the technical details.

"There were clouds in the sky already which you have to have to bring on a snowfall," he said.

Fire broke out in the area on Tuesday sparked by lightning strikes, burning 20,500 acres of camphor pines, the official Xinhua News Agency said. More than 1,000 paramilitary troops and firefighters were battling the flames, but were hampered by high temperatures, strong winds and thick undergrowth, it said.

China has practiced artificial rainmaking for decades, although it wasn't clear how often it had been specifically deployed to fight fires.

Weather specialists in Beijing earlier this month fired silver iodide shells to engineer the dry, dusty capital's heaviest rainfall of the year.