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Improperly disposed of smoking material believed to be cause of Lethbridge river valley grass fire

Click to play video 'Improperly disposed of smoking material believed to be cause of Lethbridge river valley fire' Improperly disposed of smoking material believed to be cause of Lethbridge river valley fire
WATCH ABOVE: A grass fire in the Lethbridge river valley highlighted just how dry conditions are in southern Alberta. As Quinn Campbell reports, an investigation is still ongoing into the cause of the blaze but officials believe it may have been caused by smoking materials.

Tuesday’s grass fire in the Lethbridge river valley is a reminder of just how dry conditions are in southern Alberta.

Lethbridge fire chief Marc Rathwell called Tuesday’s blaze in the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands a major fire, and said it may have been preventable.

“The fire is still under investigation, though early indicators believe it may be improperly disposed of smoking materials,” he said.

It’s not known exactly how large an area was burned, but no injuries were reported. There has also been no damage reported at a nearby golf course.

READ MORE: Crews fighting grass fire near Bridge Valley Golf Club in Lethbridge

Twenty-four firefighters from three stations responded to the fire, along with help from the Coaldale and Coalhurst fire departments with their wildland trucks.

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Tollestrup Construction also pitched in with heavy equipment and water trucks. In an unusual move, air support from Alberta Agriculture and Foresty offered needed help in a hard-to-reach area.

“To get into where the large portion of that fire was, was quite hazardous and dangerous to our crews, and the helicopter asset fit that bill perfectly and they were able to put that area out, minimizing any danger to our crews,” Rathwell said.

Strong wind gusts caused the fire to move quickly along the river, towards Highway 3.

“They were very concerned that it would jump across the highway and continue on its way north,” Rathwell said.

“They were able to make a great stop there when the wind died down, so Mother Nature helped out a little bit.”

The fire risk is high throughout southern Alberta. Crews in the M.D of Taber also dealt with grass fires on Tuesday.

According to the M.D’s regional fire department’s Facebook page, crews responded to two fires. In one case, a goose hitting a power line caused the blaze.

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The fire department also shared a map indicating just how dry the conditions are. The post explains the darker the red on the map is, the easier a fire will ignite.

“This is our fire season… across the province, we’re seeing fires already and we need to respond to that,” said Rathwell. “It’s tinder dry folks.

“We know this. We’ve dealt with these fires for how many years, people have to recognize that.”