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Alberta firefighters get help battling blaze

Fire near La Crete (Courtesy AB Wildfire Management)
Fire near La Crete (Courtesy AB Wildfire Management)

The Canadian Press

July 11, 2012 — Alberta firefighters get Yukon help battling blaze that forced residents to flee.

Alberta firefighters have help battling a blaze that has forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

Wildfire information officer Janelle Robb said 21 firefighters from the Yukon were working on a blaze burning about 10 kilometres from the northern hamlet of Zama City on Thursday.

"We have some resource-sharing agreements in place where we can pull firefighters and equipment and aircraft from different provinces and territories and this is the first of some help from outside of Alberta," she said.

The reinforcements brought to about 140 the number of firefighters at the site, Robb said. A mandatory evacuation order was issued Tuesday for Zama City, about 930 kilometres north of Edmonton.

Between 150 and 200 permanent residents and transient workers had to be moved to High Level, Alta., about 140 kilometres to the southeast.

The fire has already burned through about 1,000 square kilometres of timber and bush.

Robb said the good news is that the fire didn't appear to have grown overnight or to have moved closer to the community.

Another out-of-control fire was burning Thursday about 15 kilometres southeast of the hamlet of La Crete. That fire was about 25 square kilometres.

"There's a lot of smoke in the area right now," said Robb. She said there were about 100 firefighters on the scene. The La Crete blaze had shut down the busy Mackenzie Highway a vital link between southern and northern Canada but the road was reopened Wednesday. However, the province has warned it may close again on short notice depending on smoke and fire conditions.

Hot temperatures and gusty winds fuelled the fast-moving flames.

"They're under a high pressure ridge right now, as we have been for a couple days now. And when this ridge breaks down sometimes we see more wind and lightning," said Robb. "We're hoping as we go into the weekend this area will see some rain, which would give firefighters some help in fighting these fires."

Smoke from the forest fires in Alberta was blowing into neighbouring Saskatchewan, leaving a haze over much of the western half of the province.

Jeanette Krayetski with Saskatchewan's Environment Ministry said the smoke was visible on satellite shots. "It's really clear on there. You can just see the column of smoke that's being pushed into Saskatchewan," she said.

The Canadian Press

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