The City of Airdrie announced Thursday that improper disposal of smoking material likely caused a quick-moving wildfire that forced the evacuation of the Sharp Hill community on Tuesday.
A news release from the city said the Airdrie Fire Department’s fire prevention investigator had made the determination.
The city said the blaze started in a grassy area near the intersection of Township Road 294 and Range Road 264, then “accelerated quickly and violently” due to extreme wind.
“The Airdrie Fire Department urges the public to dispose of smoking materials safely and properly. They should never be thrown from windows of automobiles or placed into containers of plant material.”
The fire forced the evacuation of about 100 people from the area.
The City of Airdrie said one home was lost and one “sustained substantial damage” because of the fire.
Family home when fire broke out: ’10-foot flames, just like that’
Dave Smith and his family lost their home in the blaze. Smith and his wife were inside when the grass fire exploded into an inferno.
“Within a second of seeing the smoke, the flames were instantly there. And when I say flames, I mean like 10-foot flames, just like that,” Smith said.
They tried to get a vehicle out but there was no power and the garage door didn’t work.
“We had two dogs and we desperately tried to save them, but dogs have their instincts. And they would not move.
“We had to make a decision at that point. So we both ran.”
But the back door was already covered in flames and they couldn’t see because of the smoke.
Watch below from Oct. 17: Residents living in the Sharp Hill neighbourhood were evacuated Tuesday because of a grass fire that burned for hours. Jill Croteau reports.
“Literally I’m talking about 10 seconds and when I ran out, the flames had already come wrapping around the house like a hug. When we ran…you could feel the heat engulf you.”
They lost everything, including their two dogs. But the Smiths are thankful their three kids weren’t home to go through what they did.
Now an entire community is coming together, gathering donated clothes and making meals.
“It’s really tragic to see them lose everything,” said Janelle Nordin, who started a GoFundMe page for the family. She was spending Thursday with friends sorting through all the donations coming in for the Smith family.
“It’s huge. The Airdrie community and more. Didsbury, Olds, people from all over the place are asking: How can we help?” Janelle said.
“The amount of support we’ve had is just unbelievable. We’ve been in this community for some time and just the love and support from people…it’s awesome,” Smith said.
But friends and family were disappointed to hear the news from investigators that it was a smouldering cigarette that likely caused the fire.
“It’s so dry, but you don’t think that a cigarette butt could do that kind of harm, completely change someone’s life and an entire family’s life,” Nordin said.
Airdrie Fire Department Deputy Chief Garth Rabel said people need to be more responsible.
“Not just when conditions are severe like they are with these high winds, but anytime,” he said.