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Lethbridge man describes ‘unbelievable’ close encounter with grass fire

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge man details close encounter with grass fire: ‘It was unbelievable’' Lethbridge man details close encounter with grass fire: ‘It was unbelievable’
The general manager of Lethbridge Country Club describes a harrowing drive past a Lethbridge grass fire. Matt Battochio reports – Oct 18, 2017

While many in Lethbridge saw the Scenic Drive grass fire, few got up close and personal with the blaze like Brian Huculak.

READ MORE: Wildfire threatening south Lethbridge community put out

On Tuesday night, a quiet staff meeting at the Lethbridge Country Club quickly turned into one of the most memorable drives of Huculak’s life.

“The power went out on our meeting — kind of on and off for a minute or so — and then one of the people in the meeting saw smoke coming out of the coulee and we all started to react from there.”

Huculak saw a fire right near the course and the Lethbridge Fire Department arrived, telling the club to evacuate.

“It was unnerving for sure. The fire was right in the left-hand ditch next to us,” Huculak said.

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He was the last to leave the club and made his way up the hill to safety as flames devoured the land around him.

“You could feel the heat. It was unbelievable,” Huculak said. “Windows rolled up, you could feel that heat. It was very smoky.”

Click to play video: 'Viewer video shows Lethbridge man driving through fire' Viewer video shows Lethbridge man driving through fire
Viewer video shows Lethbridge man driving through fire – Oct 18, 2017

The smoke was so thick he had a hard time staying on the road.

“That’s what made me so nervous… I couldn’t even find the centre line on the road,” Huculak said. “So I’m slowing right down trying to pick my way up the hill.”

Huculak and his staff got out safely and the fire ripped through the coulees near Scenic Drive. The substantial blaze led to voluntary evacuations in the Scenic Heights and Royal Oaks neighbourhoods.

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

It took 25 firefighters from the Lethbridge Fire Department to eventually subdue the blaze. Officials closed their investigation into the cause Wednesday saying it won’t be determined.

“Sometimes it’s just difficult to see, or to find,” Deputy Fire Chief Dana Terry said. “Whether it was a lightning strike, or someone threw a cigarette, sometimes you just can’t find it.”

The fire came within metres of hitting the Lethbridge Country Club, but golfers were back on the course Wednesday.

“I just feel very fortunate, really,” Huculak said. “Compared to what others are dealing with — Waterton and the (Crowsnest) Pass right now — we were pretty darn fortunate.”

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