Wildfire spurs evacuation, state of emergency in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass

Click to play video: 'Wildfire leaves hundreds stranded overnight on Highway 3 in Coleman'
Wildfire leaves hundreds stranded overnight on Highway 3 in Coleman
WATCH: Hundreds of travellers spent the night stranded on the side of the road while evacuated residents waited for word on their homes and property. Joe Scarpelli reports – Oct 18, 2017

READ MORE: Alberta wildfires 2017: Crowsnest Pass cancels evacuation order; wildfire being held

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The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass declared a local state of emergency on Tuesday night due to a wildfire located between the Sentinel Industrial Park and Coleman, Alta.

Residents in the southwestern Alberta community of Coleman were evacuated Tuesday afternoon due to a rapidly moving wildfire in the area, exacerbated by extreme winds from the west.

As of 6 p.m. the following areas had already been evacuated:

  • Willow Drive
  • McLaren Ridge
  • Carbondale Trailer Court

MacGillivray was in the process of being evacuated.

READ MORE: ‘Rapidly spreading’ wildfire sparks emergency alert in southeastern Alberta

“This is pretty rapid; it’s really fresh and we are still trying to figure out what’s going to happen,” RCMP Cpl. Curtis Peters told Global News earlier Tuesday.

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The out-of-control wildfire started between Sentinel Industrial Park and Coleman Tuesday afternoon and moved quickly towards the town.

Everyone on Willow Drive was ordered to evacuate immediately, according to an emergency alert sent shortly before 4:30 p.m. Everyone in Coleman should be prepared to evacuate on short notice.

Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter believes the fire started when strong winds downed power lines in the area. The fire started at about 3:45 p.m.

“Because we have a west wind, this fire is being blown into our community,” Painter said at around 4:30 p.m. “We’re in the process of evacuating the west end of Coleman and that’s what I know right now. We have more resources coming in from neighbouring communities.”

RCMP and emergency services in the Crowsnest Pass were working to evacuate residents.

READ MORE: Wildfire emergency advisory issued in Burstall, Sask.

“We are currently experiencing power bumps in the eastern section of the Crowsnest Pass, hampering efforts to reset local water pump stations,” read a post on the Crowsnest Pass Facebook page at about 4:30 p.m. “If you are experiencing water outages, please bear with us.”

Highway 3 between Coleman and the British Columbia border was shut down in both directions on Tuesday evening. Travel through the Crowsnest Pass is not recommended.

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Highway 41 was also shut down between Hilda and Highway 545. For the latest information on road closures, follow Alberta 511 online or on Twitter.

As of Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., Highway 3 west of Coleman had been reopened to all traffic, but caution was urged because the wildfire west of Coleman continued to burn out of control.

As of 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, the evacuation order was lifted for those living on Willow Drive. However, evacuations were still in place for McLaren Ridge, Carbondale Trailer Court and MacGillivary Flats.

On Wednesday evening, the Alberta government said the fire burning west of Coleman now covers a total of 106 hectares.

A reception centre has been set up at the Vertical Church in Pincher Creek, located at 1200 Ken Thorton Blvd. All evacuated residents are asked to register at the church by calling 403-904-0021.

Electricity had been restored to the majority of the community including Coleman and Blairmore, but there were still some areas without power as of 12:20 p.m.

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