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Southern Alberta fire departments kept busy by windy conditions

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The lack of any sustained snow this fall and winter means the fire risk in southern Alberta is high. Mix that with the strong winds, and fire crews have been kept busy. Quinn Campbell explains. – Jan 13, 2021

Wind warnings blanketed southern Alberta Tuesday and Wednesday, causing dangerous conditions that fueled some fires in the Municipal District of Willow Creek.

“When it’s a dryer kind of winter like this, it’s windy and the grass is cured and it can cause issues,” said M.D. of Willow Creek fire chief Kelly Starling.

He said his crews were dispatched to two fires Tuesday. One was a large structure and grass fire at a feedlot near Fort Macleod that burned into Wednesday. Five fire stations responded along with neighbours and volunteers who added extra support to battle the blaze, officials said.

Read more: Crews deal with large fire near Fort Macleod

“At one point, we had 22 water trucks lined up ready to help, which allows us to use everything we can, so I take my hat off and I thank every one of those volunteers. It is truly great living in a small community where we’ve got each other’s backs,” Starling said.

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The Coalhurst Fire Department was also dealing with wind-related calls. Fire chief Mat Conte said windy conditions usually mean an increase in calls for service.

“With it being so dry and the lack of snow, it really helps dry the ground as it is. The wind just helps accelerate that and makes the grasslands very dry and then also it creates quite a hazard on the highways with semi-trucks trying to move back and forth,” Conte said.

Read more: Ferocious winds hit southern Alberta, leading to hundreds of power outages in Lethbridge

Conte said crews were called out to direct traffic due to tipped tractor-trailers. He added that when the wind is this strong, it’s important to keep a lookout for anything out of the ordinary.

“If you are seeing anything that you think might be smoke or may be a fire, err on the side of caution, call 911 and we will go out and investigate,” Conte said.

Starling said the causes of the fires in the M.D. of Willow Creek are under investigation. No people or livestock were injured in either blaze.