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Evacuation order lifted after wildfire contained in southern Alberta

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Firefighters contained a wildfire on Wednesday that had prompted a temporary evacuation order in a sparsely populated area of southern Alberta.

An emergency alert from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency was issued just after midnight notifying residents of a blaze near the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 533, west of Nanton, Alta.

The Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26 said in a statement it was unknown how many people had left.

Just after 6 a.m., evacuees were given the green light to return home with caution. The provincial agency said residents were no longer at immediate risk.

Josee St-Onge, a spokesperson with Alberta Wildfire, said the grass fire was classified as being held.

"It means that given the current weather conditions, and the resources that we have working on that wildfire, it's not anticipated to grow past the boundaries that have been established for it," said St-Onge.

Strong winds could prevent further progress in getting the fire under control and extinguished, she said.

"It's too soon to see exactly how the fire is going to behave and if we're going to be able to bring it under control quickly, but that's definitely the goal."

Aerial and land fire crews continued to fight the fire and additional resources were on standby, St-Onge added. The fire was mapped out at 37 hectares.

No property damage was reported.

St-Onge said fires are not unusual this time of year. Warmer weather, high winds and grassy areas not yet covered by snow increase the risk.

Wind warnings swept southern Alberta on Wednesday.

Environment Canada issued alerts for all southern parts of the province, including Waterton Lakes National Park, Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Lethbridge, Cardston and surrounding areas.

The agency said wind gusts could hit 100 km/h and potentially cause damage to property, down trees, toss loose objects and make driving difficult. Environment Canada said it expected winds to gradually decrease but remain "gusty" into Thursday.

Gary Stanford, who lives in Magrath, south of Lethbridge, said power went out at his home Tuesday night. He expects it was a result of power lines blown over by strong winds.

"A lot of trees broke and it was snapping off big power poles about halfway down to the ground," said Stanford. "During the night was when the big gusts came."

He said winds calmed down by about 8 a.m. Wednesday. He said it's often windy where he lives, but this was out of the ordinary.

In other parts of the province, winter weather conditions were posing a risk.

Lake Louise RCMP advised that "winter has struck the mountain areas" and was creating avalanche risks near the resort village.

Parts of Highway 93, north and south of Highway 1, were closed to traffic and weren't expected to reopen until Thursday, Mounties said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.

Alanna Smith, The Canadian Press