WATCH ABOVE: A number of grass fires unfolded across central Alberta Wednesday, destroying homes and displacing people. Shallima Maharaj has more.
EDMONTON – One house was destroyed and another was badly damaged by a grass fire near Wetaskiwin.
The grass fire was burning about two kilometres south of Wetaskiwin on Highway 2A Wednesday afternoon.
Cindy Ekkel was inside her house around 1 p.m. when she smelled smoke. Around 3 p.m., she looked outside and saw ash flying in her backyard.
“The first thing I thought of was the neighbours so I ran over to the neighbour’s and they had a building next to their home that was on fire,” Ekkel said.
She helped her neighbours get their car out of the garage. By the time she looked back at her home, it too was on fire.
“I didn’t think I was really at the neighbour’s that long, but by the time I came back … I knew better than to even attempt to go in the house.”
City of Wetaskiwin Fire Chief Leigh Sawicki said crews tried to contain the fire to one house, but high winds quickly carried the blaze to the second home. The grass fire also jumped a road and headed north, Sawicki said Wednesday evening.
“Our problem that we had was the wind and the lack of water due to the number of fires that have been going on in the surrounding areas. All the local departments have been out dealing with grass fires.”
While Ekkel’s home wasn’t completely destroyed, she hasn’t yet been able to get inside the assess the damage. Her RV, deck and garage were a total loss.
“My mom passed away 10 years ago and I’ve got her trunk with all of our stuff in there and it was in the garage, as well,” she explained. “The first thing I thought of is my trunk that has my son’s photo albums in it, the baby albums and stuff you can’t replace.”
Ekkel and her husband are staying in a hotel until they are able to return home.
READ MORE: Two grass fires burn in Strathcona County
Firefighters from Millet, Mulhurst and Camrose were called in to assist.
High winds and bone-dry conditions were also a problem for firefighters east of Edmonton Wednesday. Two grass fires in Strathcona County kept crews extremely busy and closed several area roadways.
*Editor’s note: This story originally stated two homes were destroyed by the grass fire. Wetaskiwin fire crews have since confirmed one home was destroyed was in the blaze.