April 22, 2019 5:52 pm
Updated: April 23, 2019 9:02 pm

Smoke from large Edmonton grass fire drifts across Yellowhead

WATCH ABOVE: Every day, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services is receiving more than a dozen calls for grass fires. As Sarah Kraus explains, firefighters are hoping they can avoid having to issue a fire ban.

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There was a large grass fire burning in west Edmonton on Monday afternoon.

Flames and smoke could be seen along Yellowhead Trail at 184 Street and near the Henday, on the south side of Yellowhead at 3:30 p.m.

Fire crews were called at 2:24 p.m. and arrived on scene five minutes later.

“We got about 12 trucks on scene here including all-terrain pumps and tankers,” said district chief Daniel Blackburn with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services (EFRS).

No buildings were threatened, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said. Crews expected to be there for the majority of the night putting out hot spots. Strong winds were a challenge, firefighters said.

Watch below: Traffic was delayed Monday afternoon due to a crash involving a motorcycle on the Henday between the Yellowhead and 111 Avenue. A grass fire was also burning nearby. It’s not clear if the two are connected.

“It was right over quite an area and the wind spread it quickly so we were fighting it on several fronts,” Blackburn said.

“We will be here all night because we have some extended fire in some brush. So it’s going to take most of the night to get it out.”

No injuries were reported.

A grass fire in Edmonton near the Henday and Yellowhead Trail, on Monday, April 22, 2019.

Wes Rosa/Global News

At the same time, there was also a serious collision in the area.

READ MORE: Crash involving motorcycle leads to lane closures along Anthony Henday Drive

Police said Anthony Henday Drive between 111 Avenue and Yellowhead Trail was reduced to one lane at about 3:30 p.m. due to a crash involving a motorcycle.

Drivers were asked to avoid the area and to expect delays for the next several hours.

It’s not known if the smoke and the crash are connected in any way.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

READ MORE: Alberta fire season 2019: Latest status of wildfires, bans and restrictions

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Edmonton’s deputy chief of public safety said Monday’s grass fire is a reminder of how quickly they can spread.

The city’s fire services are already fielding between 12 and 18 calls a day for outside fires. The department started tracking grass fires on April 10 and has received 120 calls since then.

The fire weather index last week was moderate to low. On Tuesday, it was extreme due to the sun, wind and lack of rain. While the deeper ground has been damp, the surface grass is very dry.

Deputy Chief Russell Croome said careless smoking is a huge factor in starting outside fires.

“Discarding a cigarette — if you choose to smoke, please discard them carefully. Make sure that they’re out,” he said.

“That has just contributed in a huge way to the fires we have. All-terrain vehicles, or any vehicles, when you’re going off-road, the grass is long and dry. The tailpipe and the motor is really hot and there’s usually enough heat to result in a grass fire.”

A grass fire near Yellowhead Trail and 156 Street on April 23, 2019.

Sarah Kraus, Global News

The fire risk is slightly higher this spring than last. To compare, spring 2018 was quite damp. EFRS didn’t start tracking fires until April 20 and had 90 fires by the end of April.

Last May, there was a two-week fire ban. That month, Edmonton saw more than 300 outdoor fires.

“That risk is ever-present,” Croome said. “Until we get that real significant green-up and get a little bit of rain, we’re going to be having these higher-than-normal risks of grass fires.”

Edmonton should see precipitation and cooler temperatures over the next week.

If you see smoke, call 911 and give the dispatchers an accurate location.

If you’re having a fire outside, use a designated pit and a screen to try and prevent embers from becoming airborne.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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