For weeks, Alberta wildfire officials have been pleading with people to stay away from evacuation zones for their own safety and now, RCMP plan to lay charges against a man who allegedly ignored those warnings and had to be rescued when he became trapped by flames.
RCMP said it happened last Friday afternoon in the Fox Creek area, where a 72,830-hectare fire that’s parts of the Eagle Complex has been raging to the north of the community.
Police said they were called at 2:45 p.m. when a man become stranded northwest of Fox Creek, where he allegedly attempted to use a gravel road to go around an evacuation zone checkpoint.
“The large truck that the male was driving had become stuck in the mud, and the current active fire in the area had surrounded him.”
Due to the active fire in the area, police said it was not safe for first responders to go in and rescue the man, so a forestry helicopter flew in and airlifted the man out to safety.
On Sunday, RCMP said they are seeking to lay common nuisance charges against the man for diverting firefighting resources.
“Alberta RCMP continue to be deployed with specialized units to assist with public safety and crime reduction efforts during these fires,” said district advisory NCO Staff Sgt. Neal Fraser in a statement.
“Incidents like these only serve to put unnecessary strain on all first responders while threatening the safety of our communities.”
Alberta RCMP reminded the public to avoid travelling in evacuation areas whenever possible and if you have to go near, make sure you have a safe route to get out.
The man’s name has not yet been released, as the charges have not been formally sworn before the courts. RCMP expected more details to come later this week.
On Monday, Alberta Wildfire said the blaze detected near Fox Creek on May 5 is still burning out of control but hasn’t grown toward the community in the past day.
Rain is expected later Monday. The province said firefighters are taking advantage of the quieter fire behaviour to reinforce a fire guard west of Fox Creek and to build a new line along the southern edge of an excursion that crossed Highway 43 north of Fox Creek.
Heavy equipment is also working on fire guards north of Fox Creek, to remove hazardous, rotten trees that pose a risk to firefighters in the short term and area residents going forward.
As of Monday, there were 164 provincial wildland firefighters and support personnel working on the fire, along with a structural protection unit and the Fox Creek Fire Department.
Also helping were firefighters from Colorado and New Brunswick, and about 100 soldiers from 1 Combat Engineer Regiment out of CFB Edmonton.
There were also 17 helicopters working on the Eagle Complex, including two heavy helicopters dedicated to dropping water with buckets.
Separate crews are also working to protect properties in the community.