Advertisement

County of Grande Prairie warns of danger when residents fight wildfires themselves

Click to play video: 'Residents of Grande Prairie and surrounding areas on edge over Alberta wildfire threat'
Residents of Grande Prairie and surrounding areas on edge over Alberta wildfire threat
Wildfires in northern Alberta have not grown so much in size this week but there are fears that could quickly change. Evacuation orders remain in effect just outside of Grande Prairie and people in that city are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Sarah Komadina reports – May 11, 2023

UPDATE: On Tuesday, May 16, the City of Grande Prairie posted on its Facebook page that an evacuation order had been downgraded to an evacuation alert for some County of Grande Prairie residents. The update noted that some areas continue to be under an evacuation order. The post said “most residents” between Township Road 710 south to the Wapiti River between Range Road 73 and Range Road 65 remain on an evacuation order and cannot return to their homes due to wildfire activity “and other hazards,” while the evacuation order was downgraded to an alert for residents located between Township Road 710 south to the Wapiti River between Range Road 65 and Range Road 63 as well as Range Road 75 and Range Road 73. This includes the subdivisions of Mystic Ridge, Deer Ridge Estates, The Ranch and Dunes West. Park Meadows, Deer Run Estates, and surrounding properties which were downgraded to an evacuation alert on May 14.

As frustration mounts over the response to wildfires that have forced thousands of Albertans to flee their homes and rural properties, one county is warning its residents against “unsanctioned acts” it says put lives in danger.

Story continues below advertisement

The County of Grande Prairie issued a statement saying a member of the public who was operating their own personal bulldozer on Friday “put themselves and crews in danger by knocking trees into the fire and nearly running over fire crews and their equipment.”

The statement says it’s imperative people understand that decisions on how to fight fires are highly coordinated and members of the public cannot act on their own, even if they mean well.

“Members of the general public, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot conduct unsanctioned acts and interrupt a fire response.”

During an information session hosted by the Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership earlier this week, one of the residents forced from their homes by the Dunes West fire said the blaze could have been stopped within 12 hours if the county had allowed people to perform their own fire prevention.

Others wanted to get back to check on farm animals that had to be left behind.

Click to play video: 'Huge demand stretches Alberta wildfire firefighting, emergency resources thin'
Huge demand stretches Alberta wildfire firefighting, emergency resources thin

There were 83 active wildfires in the province as of Saturday afternoon, including 21 out of control, and about 16,500 people from several other communities in central and northern Alberta remained out of their homes.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our fire crews are made up of highly skilled firefighters trained in everything from structure protection to wildland firefighting and getting in their way places themselves and crews in danger and reduces our ability to protect people and property,” the county said in the statement posted to its website on Saturday morning.

Saturday’s rising temperatures, which are forecast to continue throughout the weekend, were expected to increase the spread of the fires.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith was in Grande Prairie on Friday surveying the fire zone and meeting with local officials and Indigenous leaders.

On Saturday morning while making an election campaign announcement on health care, she said the government had just approved construction of  “a pretty extensive fire guard for the city.”

About 300 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are set to be deployed across the province to help with the blazes over the next few days. About 100 of those soldiers will be sent to the area around Grande Prairie.

Click to play video: 'Rural Yellowhead County residents say they were left to fight wildfires themselves: ‘All of it is gone’'
Rural Yellowhead County residents say they were left to fight wildfires themselves: ‘All of it is gone’

Sponsored content

AdChoices