Multiple fires in Southern Alberta over the weekend

·2 min read

Wildfires raged across the region this weekend due to extreme winds between 100 and 140km per hour and extreme dry conditions. The Blood Tribe’s Fire Chief Jacen Abrey reports that it was shortly after noon on Sunday, March 28 when the “Blood Tribe Fire Department received a call about the grass fire occurring near Highway 509”. The Fire department set up an “incident command and staging area near the hay plant to strategize on how to address the fire” and secured help from neighbouring fire departments and local farmers to aid them in their response. Various Fire Departments from Raymond, Coaldale, Magrath and Cardston County, along with local Hutterite Colonies and “farmers with tractors and disc equipment” joined in the effort.

The Blood Tribe Communications department shared that “a crew of over 30 Blood Tribe Firefighters worked diligently at the fire scene for over twelve hours to contain the fire using five fire trucks until the weather moved in”. Neighbouring farmers helped by “running the tractors with discs that were able to create a fireguard approximately 30 to 40 feet wide to help contain the fire and keep it from spreading”.15,000 acres of land was burned in the grass fire, “a land area that stretches about 28 kilometres west to east and six kilometres south to north along Highway 509”. The Blood Tribe Fire Department reports that the grass fire was started by a sweat that was occurring near the Highway.

Only an hour or less away, another three fires raged in the Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26. The town of Claresholm reported one of the wildfires around 1:45 pm Sunday that spread from the MD of Willow Creek into Vulcan county and caused an RCMP-led evacuation of the village of Carmangay. The wildfire was “out of control” until about 7 pm when evacuation orders were lifted. Four homes were destroyed in the blaze, eight people were treated for smoke inhalation, and one person for serious burns. Investigators are still trying to determine why the fires were initiated. Firefighters were still investigating and containing hotspots even twelve hours later (according to a March 28th social media release). The MD of Willow Creek later thanked citizen volunteers for their water trucks and tractors, and thanked “fire first responders from Fort Macleod, Nanton, Stavely, Claresholm, and Granum Fire Departments.”

Fire bans and restrictions have been implemented across the region due to continuing dry conditions.

Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star