Fire crews from the town of Manning may not be doing firefighting but they are keeping busy with patrols and acting as eyes on the ground in case the Battle Complex Wildfire, which is burning close to the town, rages out of control.
Wildland firefighters are on the front lines trying to keep the blaze at bay, but local firefighters are also doing their part to keep the county and the town safe from the flames.
Larry Brolly, fire chief for the Manning Fire Department, said there are approximately 20 local firefighters, as well as four each from the Leduc and Fort Saskatchewan fire departments, on the ground.
“For the last two weeks, probably the most basic thing we’ve been doing is what we call ember patrols. We’ve been patrolling the western flanks of [the county]… because the fire is progressing west to east,” he said.
“We’re driving, going to residents… explaining how things are going, what’s happening, what’s the expected fire behaviour for the next little while.”
Jody Lucius, wildfire information officer, said the Battle Complex Wildfire is 54,000 hectares in size. The fire was more active Saturday afternoon, she said, due to windy conditions and mixed sun and cloud.
The biggest areas of growth for the wildfire are along the western side of the fire as well as a portion of the eastern side where there is unburnt fuel, according to Lucius.
Lucius said a wind shift is expected but firefighters do not anticipate the fire will grow toward the town on Saturday; it is currently more than five kilometres away from the town.
Parts of the County of Northern Lights have been under an evacuation order since Wednesday night; the town of Manning is under an evacuation alert.
Brolly said the municipal firefighters are staging equipment around areas of concern in the county, setting up water trucks and fire tenders.
He said crews are also doing assessments on structures then setting up sprinklers on builders or yard sites that could potentially be threatened by fire.
On Saturday, firefighters checked on homeowner Jarvis Asmussen. Asmussen left the area Wednesday night when the evacuation order came down, but he is allowed temporary access to his property every day.
“Every morning, I come up here. I [have] a water truck on standby here. I just come and take drives, watch for embers,” he said.
Asmussen was given sprinklers to place on top of his house and his garage; firefighters assessed them Saturday to ensure they were in working order.
“We’re one of the closest houses [to the wildfire]. There’s a lot of other people affected as well. As far as properties, we’re one of the closest houses,” he said.
Asmussen, who farms canola and barley, said he is trying to help the county as much as he can.
“[The fire] is what it is. When you live next to the bush, you expect this stuff. Not much you can do about Mother Nature,” he said.
Watch below: The latest from the Manning, Alta., wildfire on Friday evening
As of 10 a.m. Saturday, there were 24 wildfires burning in Alberta, eight of which were out of control.
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