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Series of grass fires in Edmonton river valley under investigation

Click to play video: 'Spree of grass fires break out in Edmonton’s river valley on Friday' Spree of grass fires break out in Edmonton’s river valley on Friday
Firefighters responded to about a dozen grass fires throughout the North Saskatchewan River valley near downtown Edmonton Friday morning and afternoon, including near Jasper Avenue and the Low Level Bridge. – Apr 23, 2021

Edmonton firefighters were kept busy Friday morning and afternoon, responding to about a dozen grass fires throughout the North Saskatchewan River valley that may have been deliberately set.

“(We’ve had) a series of grassfire events today… multiple in the river valley, working from east to west,” Edmonton Fire Rescue Services district chief Rob Garth said.

The scenes in the river valley stretched from the east end of Jasper Avenue west towards the downtown core.

Edmonton firefighters using a ladder truck on Jasper Avenue to spray water on a grass fire in the steep, densely forested river valley below on Friday, April 23, 2021. Global News

Five crews, or 20 firefighters, responded at around 11 a.m. to several small blazes in the river valley near Dawson Park, and within minutes, were also dispatched to deal with blazes below Jasper Avenue near 90 Street.

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Crews could be seen using a ladder truck on Jasper Avenue to spray water on the fires in the steep, densely forested river valley below.

Fire spokesperson Kyle Owcharuk said that’s when Edmonton police were notified.

Firefighters putting out a grass fire near the Low Level Bridge in Edmonton, Alta. on Friday, April 23, 2021. Global News

Within the span of an hour, crews also responded to fires further east, near the Low Level Bridge, before heading north across the river towards a plume of black smoke.

In that area, Edmonton Fire Rescue recorded the following separate scenes:

  • Edmonton Queen dock — one fire
  • Low Level Bridge — three fires south of the bridge, one fire north of the bridge
  • James MacDonald Bridge — one fire west of the bridge
  • McDougall Hill — two fires
  • Hotel Macdonald/ Courtyard by Marriott area — one fire east of the hotels

On the north side of the river, eight firefighters snuffed out a fire in some bushes near the Courtyard by Marriott hotel near 99 Street and Jasper Avenue. Garth said that fire was the most serious due to its proximity to the hotel.

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“So far, this seems to be the last one and they’ve all been contained,” Garth said. That fire was declared out shortly after 2 p.m.

With little recent precipitation, Garth said it’s very dry outside right now.

Read more: Dry weather leads to fire restrictions in Edmonton, bans in surrounding areas

Firefighters putting out a grass fire beside the Courtyard by Marriott hotel near 99 Street and Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, Alta. on Friday, April 23, 2021. Global News

The Edmonton Police Service Air 1 helicopter was also seen hovering over the area, and officers were at several of the fire scenes.

“It’s in the hands of the police, it’s their investigation,” Garth said, adding fire investigators were helping. The cause of the fires has not been confirmed.

An Edmonton police spokesperson said officers are investigating several fires that appear to have been deliberately set along Jasper Avenue, leading into the river valley in the Dawson Park area, over the course of three to four hours.

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“The file is still under investigation at this time,” EPS spokesperson Cheryl Voordenhout said.

Read more: After dry Alberta winter, what will 2021 wildfire season look like?

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