Two fires burning on either side of Bruderheim, Alta., that started on Saturday afternoon continued to burn on Sunday.
On Saturday night, the flames and smoke forced “a few” nearby residences to be evacuated, RCMP said.
Residents in the immediate area of the fire on Range Road 204 between Township Roads 562 and 564 were forced to leave. About 18 additional properties were put on stand-by notice for their safety.
The RCMP, along with members of the Bruderheim, Lamont County, Chipman, Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County fire departments were called to battle the fires several kilometres north of the town of Bruderheim.
As of Sunday evening, the fires were being held. The area between Range Roads 204 and 205 was being monitored but no roads were closed.
RCMP are asking anyone whose home was evacuated to stay away for the time being, as wind changes remain a challenge.
This fire is burning northeast of Bruderheim near Range Road 203 and Township Road 562, according to Lamont County. It started at around 1 p.m.
Strathcona County deputy fire chief Bob Scott said it was a wild land fire that spread into the tree stand and was burning spruce and pine trees.
“We started dispatching crews and then more crews, and more crews after that, to the point where we had four of our district fire departments out and the City of Fort Saskatchewan sent us a fast attack as well,” Lamont County manager Robyn Singleton said.
Some families left their homes voluntarily Saturday night.
On Saturday night, the fire was said to be under control. Firefighters monitored it overnight into Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, Singleton said the fire was still under control.
“I’d say it could be up to about eight square miles — not fully involving that whole area — the fire runs, when there’s a wind like there has been, in long, narrow strips, so we can’t say exactly how much of that eight square miles has been burnt at this point. To make it more confusing, the wind directions have changed a lot … It’s really hard to tell until it’s all over.”
Singleton said about 30 firefighters are battling the blaze Sunday. Swampy areas were presenting challenges as were several hot spots.
“We’re primarily trying to protect structures — of course, people — homes, outbuildings, that sort of thing, and keep the fire away from there and letting it burn down in the bush.”
The fire died down overnight but wind was still a concern and fire guards were being cut. No homes have been lost but one shed was destroyed. A helicopter was being used to do some reconnaissance to assess the fire situation.
Strathcona County Fire
Another fire, burning northwest of Bruderheim in Strathcona County, started just after noon on Saturday.
Officials said it’s in the Strathcona County Wildland Area south of Township Road 564A between Range Road 212 and Secondary Highway 830.
Scott said the fire was “quite large,” covering an area of two kilometres by one kilometre.
The fire was being held Saturday night thanks to winds dying down and cooler temperatures, however Scott said it could flare up again Sunday as temperatures rise.
There was no mandatory evacuation for this fire, although a few families chose to leave because of all the smoke.
“There’s no towns in the immediate area that are threatened or affected by this fire,” Scott said. “There were a couple of farms that were under threat and folks that live at those farms voluntarily decided to evacuate while we were doing the fire fight.”
Private water tankers and a helicopter are being used to fight this blaze. There were 46 firefighters and 16 pieces of equipment plus dozers, a water tanker and private helicopter fighting the blaze on Saturday.
Scott said on Sunday morning the fire was not yet under control. It was classified as “being held,” meaning it wasn’t actively spreading. There were 15 firefighters with four pieces of equipment and dozers.
As of 11:30 a.m., the fire covered 242 hectares.
“The fire settled down for us overnight due to the winds decreasing and the temperature dropping and it also brought the relative humidity up. That took the punch out of the fire and settled things down,” Scott said.
The deputy fire chief said there was no lightning on Saturday when the fire was first reported, so the cause is not natural and is still under investigation.
“The public is asked to be mindful of the use of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and dirt bikes during these times of dry grass and high winds,” RCMP said in a news release late Sunday afternoon. “The RCMP is asking that those operating these vehicles stay away from fire affected areas.”
Dennis Thompson lives in Fort Saskatchewan and could see the smoke from there. He was driving near Bruderheim and saw what he described as “a huge grass fire” at around 2:30 p.m.
He believes it was near the Bruderheim Recreation Area, by Sand Hills.
Bruderheim is about 75 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. Lamont County is currently under a fire ban.